Monday, 13 February 2006

Farewell, Peter Benchley

Peter Benchley (1940 - 2006)
I was born the year Jaws came out. The opening score should have been written for my birth.

Sadly, the author of the story that terrorised - and entertained - millions, has passed on.

The hype generated by the book and the movies never told the truth about the world's largest predatory fish, which belongs to a family that's reached the evolutionary pinnacle of its species long before the rise of mammals.

Since writing the novel, Benchley had learned much more about the great white shark, and became one of the strongest voices calling for its conservation. He never intended to misinform anybody about sharks; it just made a good story. But like I said, the stories don't even tell half the truth.

Thanks to Benchley and many others like him, we know more about sharks like the great white. As fear gives way to respect, some of us can see Jaws for what it really is: a creature whose mastery of its environment was long and hard-won.

When he spun the yarn about a monster from the deep, Benchley probably never thought about how inextricably linked he would be to his creation. Now that the man is gone, we should do all we can to make sure the beast does not follow.

We owe him that.

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