I am such a non-shark guy that I have never seen Jaws, other than probably catching a minute of it on cable TV before flipping to a baseball game or something else. I did read the first few pages of Peter Benchley's book when it came out in paperback and my mother bought it, but even that was only because he described a naked woman in the beginning (and they had a somewhat distant naked woman on the cover too, which helped) ... after she got eaten by a really big shark I lost interest.
But I am interested now. Because Discovery Channel says a shark killed me. And therein lies a mystery you must help me solve before Shark Week, lest we lose all our science street cred.
It began innocently enough a few weeks ago. I got an email from a gent named Taylor Riddick at a media group who said he was working for Discovery Channel and wanted to know if I would be interested in getting an 'exclusive' object related to Shark Week.
You can imagine that, in true ironic fashion, doing free science outreach for a million readers a month gets us a lot of requests for free publicity from multi-billion dollar media companies and the PR groups they employ. And I don't mind, any more than I mind press releases because I can't find all of the good stuff out there on my own - though it would be better for all the writers if those companies bought an ad with the money they spend on PR people instead. Anyway, usually we get books or the occasional TV program. In most cases I try to have things sent directly to the scientists who are likely to review them.
But this was nothing that could be reviewed, I didn't even know what it was, so last Tuesday I got a box marked 'Fragile'. I didn't recognize the name (because, like a good PR company, CampfireMedia was not making this about them) but I opened it anyway; since the Unabomber went to SuperMax I don't think anyone is bombing scientists in California unless they are doing animal testing so I felt pretty safe.
And this is what I found on top of a lot of protective packaging.
It's an interesting note. I don't know what's so tragic about a box, though. So I opened further - and I tell you all this dear reader because, as I have mentioned, there is a mystery you must help me solve.
I dug further in the packaging and found a jar. But it was no ordinary jar, it looked like it came from the bottom of a mine shaft.
Or the ocean, it turns out.
Can you figure out what's in it? Neither could I.
I haven't lived in the city so long I am afraid to grab some skeevy jar lid so I opened it. And it opened like some ancient jar lid that had been sitting in a cellar somewhere.
But here was the shocker. When I took off the lid, out fell this:
Shout out to LiveScience! I don't know why they think I am a contributor but I will take it. No one reads me here, anyway. I'll forgive them for "tens of millions of dollars" too, though it was hundreds of millions. I'm apparently dead, so it doesn't matter.
That's right, my obituary. On real newsprint. It even has an ad on the back. Pretty creepy(1). It's not that I don't expect death threats, I just expect them from Nature (the magazine, not the bitch) or some big media company, not a stranger.
Next up was a key on a little life preserver thingie:
Follow along here because, as I said, there is a mystery to be solved. The note above said "The story of a single tragic incident that needs to be unlocked" and now I have a key which reads Discovery Marina and SW09, which we can safely assume stands for Shark Week.
In case you can't tell, the tip of the key is bent so it probably cannot be used as is - I also could not make out any more writing through the corrosion than "RU46" - and a guy 20 years younger than me couldn't see anything more either.
To add to the delightfully disturbing nature of all this, next up was a FrenziedWaters.com keychain with a shark tooth (no other clues I can see in that) and a pair of bloody swim trunks with the leg ripped away.
Wedged up against the side of the jar, and folded up, was this poster:
Did I call the phone number? No, I did not. I wanted to write this and see if anyone has a clue first. But I went to the website and saw three dates above floating jars (and another with a link to Facebook). The first said "Asbury Park 1916" had a video you can go see for yourself. Asbury Park is not just the place that made Bruce Springsteen famous, it seems.
I wanted to wait until today to write this because the second floating jar was a date - today's, June 13th. And that means we can now use the awesome power of citizen science and social media to look at the clues and figure it out before anyone else.
Here's a screenshot of the coordinates above the jar today. Let me know what you think.
EDIT: Gerhard says these are cities where more clues have been sent so I did some research:
25° 43′ 47.32″, -80° 14′ 23.89″ — Miami, FL
38° 54′ 18.72″, -77° 03′ 55.15″ — Washington, DC
42° 29′ 23.96″, -83° 08′ 30.05″ — Detroit, MI
32° 48′ 06.91″, -96° 47′ 09.64″ — Dallas, TX
39° 56′ 19.36″, -75° 09′ 11.38″ — Philadelphia, PA
34° 08′ 02.04″, -118° 21′ 29.52″ — Los Angeles, CA
33° 46′ 57.54″, -84° 16′ 24.82″ — Atlanta, GA
37° 45′ 34.42″, -122° 25′ 17.40″ — San Francisco, CA