Debunking Tall Tales About Megalodon, the Monster Shark

Megalodon, gone for good (Nobu Tamura).

What can you say about a TV documentary in which the suspiciously good-looking lead protagonist--"marine biologist" Collin Drake—comes up empty in a Google search? Or, for that matter, his equally attractive "marine biologist" pal Madelyn Joubert, who joins him halfway through the show, and whom a cursory web search easily demonstrates not to exist? And, not to belabor the point, a TV show that starts with suspiciously staged-looking video footage of a charter boat capsizing off the coast of South Africa, and no references can be found about this accident (in which three passengers were supposedly killed) from reliable online news sources? I don't know much about charter boats, but I do know that people whose ship is in the process of sinking do not take the trouble to center their subjects on frame. (See also 10 Things Megalodon Could Swallow Whole, a review of Megalodon: The New Evidence, and an article explaining why there are no giant sharks alive today.)

Welcome to the world of the Discovery Channel and its inaugural Shark Week special, Megalodon - The Monster Shark Lives, which first aired on Sunday, August 4, 2013. I usually steer well clear of Discovery programming, but since I know more about Megalodon than the average person (see my articles 10 Facts About Megalodon and Megalodon vs. Leviathan - Who Wins?) I felt compelled to tune in. I'm shocked that a major TV channel with a supposedly educational purview can get away with this drivel, in which "Collin Drake" (whoever he is in real life) pursues his theory that that charter boat was rammed by a living Megalodon. We're taken through various pieces of "evidence"--sonar sightings, Nazi-era photographs, whale carcasses washed up on the beach--but if Discovery is brazen enough to manufacture its "talking heads" out of whole cloth, what is the point of assessing the reliability of these details?

I don't want to get into a debate about whether real, live Megalodon sharks are prowling the shores of southern Africa--after all, it's impossible to prove a negative, and people will believe what they want to believe. On first airing, I was also willing to entertain the teensiest bit of doubt that Collin Drake and Madelyn Joubert were who they said they were (though they certainly looked, acted and talked unlike any scientists I've ever met in real life, a judgment confirmed when it was later revealed that "Collin Drake" was actually played by a third-string Australian soap actor.) But I am saddened by the prospect that millions of unsuspecting people allow themselves to be "educated" by the Discovery Channel, which apparently can't stoop low enough to procure its ratings, and doesn't care how many schoolkids it misinforms in the process. Say what you will about Megalodon, but it couldn't help being a soulless, uncaring killing machine--you'd think someone at the supposedly more evolved Discovery Channel would have a conscience!

(Apparently unashamed by the critical backlash against Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, Discovery aired an even more egregious sequel, Megalodon: The New Evidence, in July 2014, about which you can read in Megalodon: The New Evidence - Don't Believe Everything You See.)