Those who have seen Jaws (and there are legions of them) can recount word for word the famous monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis Quint (Robert Shaw) delivers to Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) the night of their hunt to kill that beastly shark terrorizing Amity. At one point Quint says:
“On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist.”
Good storytelling, and even more spooky than the fate of poor Christine Watkins at the beginning because our imaginations can run wild with the details, not see them.
It also seems to have given rise to a myth about shark attacks after the sinking.
A few months back, my Google News alert for “USS Indianapolis” landed in my e-mail box a review of a book called The Book Of Deadly Animals, by Gordon Grice. In it is this quote about the Indianapolis:
‘Men sped across the face of the water, propelled by unseen sharks. Others bobbed in the water as if asleep; on closer inspection they were found to be missing their lower halves. Some were dragged down suddenly, never to reappear; their empty life jackets might float up moments later.’
This sounds suspiciously like something out of that famous scene with Quint, Brody, and Hooper. Observe:
Quint: “I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist.”
Grice: “Others bobbed in the water as if asleep; on closer inspection they were found to be missing their lower halves.”
Sounds like Mr. Grice got duped by this myth. While survivors recounted many gory shark attacks, no accounts that I have read relate a specific incident exactly like the one Quint talks about. In my opinion, all written accounts such as Mr. Grice’s subscribe to a myth born of a scene in a movie written expressly for the development of one of the main characters (i.e. xplaining why Quint hates sharks so much.).