White sharks are being sighted off the California coast more than ever before. As the species interacts more and more with humans, researchers find themselves in need of more funding—and beachgoers will have to reevaluate their relationship with an animal most famous for its villainous role on the silver screen.
When writer Peter Benchley heard about a 4,550-pound shark that was caught near Montauk in 1964, he became fascinated. He jumped aboard fishing boats to hear stories of great white encounters, dove in cages to get looks up close, and eventually wrote his own fictional narrative in 1974, titled Jaws. The subsequent 1975 Steven Spielberg film—about a rogue, 25-foot-long white shark that developed a taste for human flesh and terrorized a small New England town—ignited a fear of sharks that has lasted for generations.