A collaboration between a scientist and a science writer, Chasing Shadows is the remarkable story of the resurgence of the white shark population in the western North Atlantic told largely through the eyes of the shark biologist who found himself in the middle of it. At its heart, it is a too rare conservation success story about restoring an apex predator to an ecosystem. Illustrations and maps by scientific illustrator Karen Talbot.
Click here to listen to a sample from the audiobook.
Interviews, Podcasts, and Behind the Scenes
Hear an interview with Ret and Greg discussing Chasing Shadows with Brendan, host at the History Nerds United podcast.
Hear an interview with Ret and Greg discussing Chasing Shadows with Clay, host at the The Fish Nerds Podcast.
Read an essay by Ret and Greg about writing Chasing Shadows in Air Mail.
Enjoy this free excerpt from Chasing Shadows published with permission on Literary Hub.
Praise for CHASING SHADOWS
“When my late husband, Peter Benchley, started writing Jaws, he thoroughly researched available data on white sharks, but in the early 1970s, scant scientific data existed. Chasing Shadows chronicles the research we’ve learned in the decades since and provides fascinating details about the great white shark in the Northwest Atlantic, why it is an evolutionary marvel, and how it differs from other species of sharks. As a diver and shark advocate for the past fifty years, I reveled in reading the arch of transformation from an era of ignorance to today, where shark conservation is applauded and admired. It offers a stirring but candid account of shark conservation success that addresses the complexities, risks, and ramifications for both people and prey.”
—Wendy Benchley, Ocean Conservationist & Marine Policy Advocate
“At last: the story of tracking the ocean’s most charismatic and controversial predator, compellingly told by the man who has learned more about the Atlantic great white shark than any other person alive. You must not miss this fantastic book! I could not put it down.”
—Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of The Soul of an Octopus
“An exhilarating and illuminating ode to the ocean’s most misunderstood gangsters. As seals have gradually returned to the shores of Cape Cod since the 1970s, so too have white sharks, spurring high drama and anxiety in waters thick with swimmers and surfers. Told through the eyes of a leading white shark biologist, this nuanced account of the restoration of an apex predator to its historic range demystifies an elusive creature that’s less monster than fish. A fascinating story filled with wonder and awe, Chasing Shadows seeks to reconcile our primal fear with our ecological conscience, exploring what it truly means to coexist with wild things.”
—Emily Voigt, author of The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish, a PEN American Literary Award finalist
"Vividly written, gorgeously developed, and as terrifyingly suspenseful as a dorsal fin slicing across the surface, this as-told-to adventure by Skomal and Talbot is far more than a brilliant autobiography of a marine biologist, on the same rolling decks as Eugenie Clark, Jacques Costeau, and Sylvia Earle, because Chasing Shadows is also the story of our profound and critical cultural relationship with sharks and how the controversial return of an apex predator to the North Atlantic might just be the conservation story that we all desperately need to read right now, at sea and on land."
—Richard J. King, author of Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby-Dick and Ocean Bestiary, and visiting professor at Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, MA
“Chasing Shadows is steeped in awe for a creature both dangerous and endangered, scrutinized and elusive, reviled and revered. Greg Skomal and Ret Talbot ask us to consider all of these things at once, for therein lies the possibility for both humans and sharks to thrive along these shores.”
— Catherine Schmitt, author of The President's Salmon and science communication specialist at Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park
"The fascinating behind-the-scenes story of the re-emergence of great white sharks on Cape Cod—a tale of science, high emotion, and drama from the man at the epicenter of it all. Chasing Shadows is an absolute page-turner!"
— Brian Skerry, wildlife photographer and filmmaker
"Jaws made us fear the great white shark. Scientist and leading shark expert Greg Skomal also terrifies us with his first-hand stories in Chasing Shadows. But far more importantly, Skomal makes us all appreciate the creatures for their beauty, their ferociousness, and the vital role they play in the food chain as a key indicator to the health of our oceans."
— Doug Most, author of The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subways
Library Journal (Starred Review) & Best Book of June Selection
Marine biologist Skomal has been a go-to scientist for info on sharks for decades. In this book, he and journalist Talbot describe the shark for the splendid creature that it is. When the authors tell of a white shark breaching right under Skomal’s boat, readers are reminded that humans are guests in the sea and owe it and its denizens the greatest respect. Skomal is a serious cartographer of the shark’s journey, and readers will come to understand sharks’ fragility in a natural world that’s increasingly pressured by human interests and needs. VERDICT Fans of Jaws and “Shark Week” will love this book, but it’s also a compelling read for anyone interested in oceans, wildlife, conservation, or scientific adventures. An excellent title for readers who’ve ever been at the ocean’s edge and wondered what was out there.
In this highly accessible work of narrative nonfiction, marine biologist and white shark expert Skomal, a regular on the Discovery Channel's megahit Shark Week, describes the lives of white sharks and chronicles his career tracking them over three decades. The author details his professional and educational career, including encounters he has had with this magnificent animal. From an early age, Skomal was interested in studying sharks. He recalls the effect watching the first episode of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau had on his career choice as well as his desire to become the real-life Matt Hooper from Jaws. He also points to professionals in the field that had a profound influence on his career path. Alongside his personal story, the author provides a history of white shark research and management in the New England area, including the first successful tagging program in the U.S. As he notes, due to difficulties in studying white sharks, we still do not know much about them, and what we do know, we've only learned relatively recently. Over the last decade, due to the increased number of white sharks in the New England area, shark encounters are on the rise. While their return is a conservation success story, it is also creating debate about public safety. Following a fatal shark attack in the area in 2018, the first in more than 80 years, Skomal shared these words of caution: "We all revere these animals, but on a rare occasion they remind us that they are powerful predators that make mistakes." Skomal's enthusiasm for sharks and his desire to help others better understand their behavior are consistently apparent. "My professional goal has always been to be not only a good shark biologist," he writes, "but also a public ambassador for white sharks."
A thrilling and compassionate account for shark enthusiasts.
“Readers will appreciate the opportunity to get an intimate look into [great white] sharks’ lives from the safety of dry land.”
Chasing Shadows isn’t meant to be a purely literary work but in the tradition (or shadow) of Moby-Dick, it does contain history, biography, science, drama, horror, profundity and mundanity. The drudgery of shark research, the swells and the seasickness, the moments of fear and exhilaration and the days of hard work that produce them.