This Shark Week Program Is A True (& Scary) Story

by Jodi Walker

"What was the motive?" That's something you usually here from the likes of Special Agent David Rossi while investigating a serial killer on Criminal Minds, not in the voice over for a Discovery special during Shark Week. When sharks attack humans, it's usually because they've mistaken them for a food source, or perhaps sometimes out of instinct, but sharks don't have motives... do they? That's what expert Brandon McMillan is trying to figure out. Well, actually, he's trying to figure it out again. The true story, Return of the Great White Serial Killer picks up where Shark Week's 2013 special, Great White Serial Killer, left off.

The original 2013 special saw animal expert Brandon McMillan investigating two fatal shark attacks that both took place off Surf Beach in California exactly two years apart. In 2013, McMillan was exploring if the same great white shark committed both attacks, and if so why: What was the — key word alert — motive. In 2014, he returned to Surf Beach to see if there might be more attacks in the continued every-two-years pattern. Spoiler alert: There were. McMillan told Yahoo TV this was exactly the kind of program Shark Week 2015 needed because, “Shark Week traditionally has been all about just filming big shark, big shark with not a really strong story... Great White Serial Killer is based on true events that, in my opinion and everybody else, who watches it, it’s almost like a real-life Jaws story.”

So what story is that? Let's take a look ahead of the Shark Week special.

The Attacks

Indeed, the timeline of events would be enough to set Dr. Spencer Reid's wheels turning (last Criminal Minds reference, promise). According to the previous documentary, in September of 2008, surfer Kyle Knapp was attacked by a great white shark at Surf Beach, but not killed; in October 2010, Lucas Ransom was fatally attacked while body boarding at Surf Beach; exactly two years later, in October 2012, Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. was killed while surfing. Yahoo TV reports that McMillan took a crew to Surf Beach in October of 2014 to see what they'd find — and what they found was that there were four more great white shark attacks (fortunately with no fatalities.)

Great Whites

In the original investigative special, McMillain studied great whites in New Zealand who were showing a particularly aggressive nature like the attacks at Surf Beach. And, while there were similarities in the nature of attacks, the two year pattern at Surf Beach still couldn't be explained. There are theories that the great white shark attacking at Surf Beach must be a large female because they're prone to two-year migrations. And while McMillain tells Yahoo TV that "theories are just theories," Return of the Great White Serial Killer spends a lot of time exploring the habits of two charmingly named female great whites, Emma and Lucy.

Why Surf Beach?

My main question is why do people keep going back to Surf Beach, but McMillain is investigating why the great white attacks are happening in the first place. I'll save the good stuff for you to watch with accompanying shark footage, but the animal expert has a theory about the depth of Surf Beach's waters, as told to Yahoo TV: “Usually, you’re surfing in pretty shallow water, four-to-10-foot-deep water. Now this beach, just outside the surf break, it drops a good 40 to 60 feet. That’s what great whites need to get the steam to actually go in full predation mode and launch at something." Yikes.

Images: Jimi Partington/Discovery; Jeff Kurr/Discovery