Review

The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Survival and Obsession Among America's Great White Sharks

by Susan Casey



Less than 40 miles off the coast of San Francisco lay the
Farallones, an almost unknown group of islands surrounded by rough
sea and dense fog and home to thousands of birds, seals and sea
lions. The human habitation of the islands has been historically
less numerous, and today only a handful of people spend any
significant amount of time there at all. The weather and the
landscape are quite unforgiving and spooky, but excellent for bird
and wildlife research. However, what drew writer Susan Casey to the
Farallones were the dark waters surrounding them --- shark-filled
waters.


Editor and journalist Susan Casey became interested in great white
sharks generally and the Farallones specifically after seeing a BBC
documentary. She obtained permission (not an easy task) to visit
the islands and the scientists working there to write an article.
But she knew the story she found warranted a book. The result is
THE DEVIL'S TEETH. Casey's obsession with white sharks found much
fodder on the islands, and she managed return visits and several
encounters with the misunderstood beasts themselves.


Casey's book isn't quite about great white sharks, though. While
you will find lots of great information in a less than scientific
package, her story is about the islands themselves. In fact, "The
Devil's Teeth," while a great nickname for the great whites, refers
to the Farallones, their jagged appearances and reputation for
eating ships and boats. She relates the colorful history of the
island, from its discovery by Sir Francis Drake in 1579 to the
Russian seal trade of the early 1800s to the California gold rush
to the mini-war between lighthouse keepers and "eggers" in the
1900s. Today the island is protected, a refuge for hundreds and
thousands of birds. But the waters off the islands are not, leading
to many interesting conflicts among commercial fishing enterprises,
adventure seekers and various entrepreneurs, scientists and the
U.S. government.


Two scientists in particular, Peter Pyle and Scot Anderson, are
highlighted in the book. They let Casey into their exclusive world
of shark research where they are busting stereotypes about great
whites and fighting the elements on the formidable Farallones. Lest
you think this is a dry piece of nonfiction about one seemingly
unlovable animal and the scientists dedicated to them, you will
also find the tale of a runaway yacht, scary storms, one ghost,
skull pecking cannibal sea gulls, and lots of adventure, not to
mention the jaws of sharks measuring over 16 feet long and up to
eight feet across! All of this is recounted with surprising insight
and a readable style.


THE DEVIL'S TEETH is informative and interesting, well-researched
and just plain fun to read. Casey's interest in the great white
sharks led her to the Farallones, which serve as the dramatic and
amazing backdrop to one of nature's oldest creatures' feeding
grounds. Her descriptions of the Farallones are at once foreboding
and utterly romantic, and readers will not only gain new respect
and awe for great white sharks but also will never look at the
California coast in quite the same way again.


   










Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on December 29, 2010

The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Survival and Obsession Among America's Great White Sharks
by Susan Casey

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2005
  • Genres: Adventure, Nonfiction, Travel
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • ISBN-10: 080507581X
  • ISBN-13: 9780805075816