Discovery Channel’s Shark Week turns 25

Most sharks need to keep swimming to survive, and just as these fascinating fish keep on moving forward, so too does Discovery Channel’s annual summer programming event honoring them — Shark Week, which celebrates its 25th anniversary when it kicks off Aug. 12.

The first ever Shark Week program, Caged in Fear, aired on Discovery July 17, 1988. In the still-young world of cable TV in the late 1980s, Discovery was looking for innovative ways to draw viewers in to the network, eventually playing off people’s intense curiosity about the natural world — in particular, predators such as sharks — to great success.

There have now been 143 Shark Week specials over the decades, some including celebrity hosts and shark divers, some tying in with other hit Discovery shows like MythBusters, and one even airing in 3-D.

This year, nine new specials continue the franchise’s inexorable swim forward. The week begins Aug. 12 at 9pm ET/PT with Air Jaws Apocalypse, which picks up where 2011’s Emmy-nominated Ultimate Air Jaws left off, with Chris Fallows and Jeff Kurr on a quest to learn more about the great white sharks of Seal Island, South Africa. Here’s a clip of one shark they encountered, appropriately dubbed “Colossus,” putting a quick end to one of their experiments:

Airing on the same premiere night, Aug. 12 at 10pm ET/PT, Shark Week’s Impossible Shots follows filmmakers as they attempt to get the shot to top all Shark Week shots, which has eluded them all these years: a bird’s-eye view of a breaching great white.

Also premiering during the week are Sharkzilla (Aug. 13, 9pm ET/PT), which attempts to re-create the massive, prehistoric (and extinct) megalodon shark; MythBusters’ Jawsome Shark Special (Aug. 13, 10pm ET/PT), in which MythBusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman count down their top 25 shark myths of all time; How “Jaws” Changed the World (Aug. 14, 9pm ET/PT), a look at how Steven Spielberg’s Jaws impacted people’s perceptions of sharks, and the sharks themselves; Adrift: 47 Days With Sharks (Aug. 14, 10pm ET/PT), an inspiring true story of two World War II heroes who survived 47 days at sea after a plane crash, fighting off sharks; Shark Fight (Aug. 15, 9pm ET/PT), a look at survivors of shark attacks who have devoted their lives to saving their attackers; Great White Highway (Aug. 16, 9pm ET/PT), which tracks great whites of the Farallones off the California coast; and Shark Week’s 25 Best Bites (Aug. 16, 10pm ET/PT), which looks back at the greatest breaches, brushes and bites captured on film in the history of Shark Week.

Throughout August, Discovery again offers a live Shark Cam from the Ocean Voyager exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, via Ustream, daily from 6am-11pm ET. Starting Aug. 13, live diver Q&A sessions will be held at 12:30pm ET, and daily whale shark feedings will be streamed at 10:30am and 3pm ET — every weekday during Shark Week.


Air Jaws Apocalypse: © Discovery Communications. Credit: Chris Fallows