Shark attack sign - Solana BeachThe fatal shark attack at Solana Beach in 2008 (the first in 50 years in San Diego), prompted me to start learning about sharks and their habits.  Having been smart enough to avoid the film Jaws in the 1970s and the frightening images it left in its wake, I looked beyond it and found these other wonderful resources.  Survival books and films are not only inspiring, they teach us a lot.  Some of the following books and films are primarily educational, some are remarkable stories of battling the odds, but all are amazing works created by people who found it in themselves to not only care, but to say something about it!

Sharkwater DVDCanadian diver Rob Stewart explores the multi-million-dollar illegal industry of shark finning in this very interesting and moving film.  From Chinese weddings to restaurant tables in the U.S., shark fin soup is what everyone seems to want -- signifiying strength, health and showing off wealth (a bowl can go for $100 or even $200).  Growing demand has created a worldwide black market that has decimated 90% of the planet's sharks.  This film tells the story of a few dedicated activists who set out to make a difference -- and find themselves pitted against pirates and police in international waters.  It's a great production -- memorable and informative, full of diving, sharks and some pretty unforgettable footage of the shark-finning enterprise.  (Winner of 22 international awards; special features include a Navy shark-defense training film.)  $14.00

Blue Water White Death DVDConsidered the original great white shark documentary, this is indeed an all-time classic.  An underwater film crew travels 12,000 miles on the open ocean to obtain the first film footage of the great white shark.  After all, as an apex predator, it should be somewhere in the deep blue sea!  But six months of searching yields nothing except other sharks -- the oceanic white tip, in particular (which is now almost extinct, thanks to finning -- see the DVD Sharkwater).  Disillusioned and ready to quit, the crew acts on one last suggestion: Dangerous Reef in Australia.  There they meet with success, in coastal shallows, no less.  (It's known today that where seals can be found, sharks like to swim.)  Many believe this documentary, released in 1971, was Peter Benchley's cue for Jaws.  But it is not by any stretch a horror film ... rather, it's a collector's must, showing the ocean as it used to be, as well as the first actual footage of any great white ever taken.  (This re-release also features a reunion of the original crew decades later.)  $20.00

The Perfect Storm DVD
In October 1991, a fishing boat called the Andrea Gail got caught in the whirl of three combining weather fronts, one of them Hurricane Grace.  It was the biggest storm in recorded history.  Based on the extraordinary book by Sebastian Junger, this is the story of a crew that tried to confront a monster -- a fatal decision based on money, logistics, instinct and the odds.  When a storm breaks at sea, a ship's captain must decide if he has enough fuel to move around the storm, to turn back, or literally ride the waves -- gunning right up their massive fronts -- to avoid being capsized and submerged.  A disaster movie with harrowing special effects, a decent script and actor George Clooney against a backdrop of small-town commercial fishing.  For true lovers of the ocean!  $14.00

Touching the Void DVDThe true 1985 story of two mountain climbers on an adventure first -- ascending the unconquered Andes peak called Siula Grande.  A blizzard descends and they are separated, connected only by a rope that becomes suddenly taut because one has plunged off an ice ledge.  The expedition turns into a moral and psychological ordeal as the lives of both are in peril but only one can make a decision.  He does, and cuts the rope.  Based on the bestselling book, a first-person narrative by climber Joe Simpson himself (1988), the film is a gripping re-enactment of the perilous fall and the agony that ensued, with survival an outcome that was born from extraordinary physical and inner strength.  Narrated by the original climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates.  $14.00

Into the Wild DVDThe true story of Christopher McCandless (based on the book by Jon Krakauer), who sought the ultimate experience of life alone in the Alaskan wilderness.  McCandless's body was found by moose hunters, two weeks after his death.  In a psychological inquiry as much as it is an adventure story, director Sean Penn unravels the threads of Christopher's personal journey from city boy to wanderer, and ultimately to a final definition that is different for each of us and can only be speculatively expressed.  What impelled the young McCandless to abandon what he knew for everything he didn't, besides the desire for "experience" itself?  A fascinating film -- long and deep and ponderable, posing questions that probe and linger.  With Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless.  $18.00

Water DVDAn astonishing Russian documentary (narrated in English) about the powers and wonders of ... water.  Featuring the world-famous work of Dr. Masaru Emoto (you saw his crystals in the film What the Bleep Do We Know?) and scientists from all over the world, Water suggests a whole new possibility for dealing with the problems that surround us.  "How?" you ask.  Did you know that water has memory: It receives and makes an imprint of any outside influence -- its clusters of molecules are memory cells.  Water registers our intention -- there is no mistake about this.  Water reacts to music, thoughts, events.  Water alters itself in response to what and who is around it.  A fascinating exploration of systems science as seen through research on the one substance that exists on earth in liquid, gas and solid form.  Extraordinary findings -- watch it twice!  $25.00