by Diane Sussman

Page 4: Killer sharks

Publication Date: Friday Jul 29, 1994

Page 4: Killer sharks

A few weeks ago here at the paper, we killed a guy. American Heritage Museum founder Frank Livermore. Inadvertently called him "the late." He's not. Two simple words, and we snuffed him out. Judging by the phone calls, a lot of people were sorry to see Frank go. And, in a reversal of fortune, a few days ago we almost brought Josephine Duveneck back to life. We nearly ran an item saying Duveneck, who died in 1978, would be speaking at Printers Inc. next month about her new book.

But we were in no way responsible for the rumors about a 20-foot-long Great White Shark in Rinconada Pool last Friday.

In many ways, the Great White Shark story was a replay, albeit in miniature, of last October's black mamba snake story.

You remember the mamba snake.

When it first escaped, the snake was described as seven feet long, able to slither at speeds of 10 mph and dangerous principally to small rodents.

By the next morning, it had stretched to 10 feet, was cruising at speeds of 25 mph and had developed a marked culinary preference for Saint Bernards.

By day three, the 40-foot long snake's appetite could only be appeased by an offering of football player William Perry, better known as the Refrigerator, served with Volkswagen-sized vats of drawn butter.

I got my first call about the shark at 6:30 a.m. from Carol MacPherson, coach of the Rinconada Pool masters swim program.

I answered the phone the way I always do before 9 a.m.: "This had better be good. Someone better be dead."

MacPherson proceeded to tell me that two dead leopard sharks had been found in the baby pool that morning.

Swimmer Steve Callender was first to notice the sharks. "I saw the first one about halfway around the pool. It was cocked to one side, staring. I kept looking at it to see if it moved."

Hoping it was a rubber toy, Callender fished it out of the water by its tail. "Was I scared?" he recalled. "I was unmanned."

With Callender temporarily unmanned, that left the task of removing the second shark to swimmer Judith Schwartz. "I wanted to do it the way the guys in lane one would do it," she said, referring to the hotshots. "I asked myself, What would Fred (an apparent hotshot) do? The truth is, it was icky and I couldn't look at it in the face."

Now, anyone familiar with leopard sharks knows that the two-foot sharks, common in the bay, are harmless to anything much larger than a shrimp or clam.

Dead leopard sharks pose even less of a risk.

But none of this mattered as the day progressed. By noon, people were calling the Weekly requesting information about "a shark in Rinconada Pool."

"There wasn't a shark in the pool," we corrected them, being careful not to inflame the situation. "There were two sharks."

By mid-afternoon, the two sharks had fused into a single 20-foot-long, three-ton Great White whose lineage had somehow been traced to Moby Dick.

It obviously swam up though the sewers, said a man who inserted himself into an impromptu cafe debate on the subject. "They come right up through the toilet," he said. "Seen it in Florida. Me, I never go (to the toilet) without checking for sharks first."

And regardless of what you may have heard to the contrary, the Weekly did not play a musical recording throughout the day that went "BUM-bum, BUM-bum, BUM-bum, BUM-bum."

Masters swimmers who had heard about the shark but who hadn't seen it simply wanted to know if the shark was "open to sharing the lane" and was available to swim a 200-fly for Rinconada at a meet in Santa Cruz this weekend. "After all, we found the shark at Rinconada. It should swim for us," went the thinking.

But this Great White won't be swimming for any team. Neither will either of the leopard sharks. Animal Services disposed of one. The other, they said, went to the Junior Museum for pickling. But the Junior Museum claims it never saw the shark, pickled or otherwise. They say the Baylands Interpretive Center has it. But the Interpretive Center says it doesn't have the shark either.

The black mamba, so far as we know, is still at large.

Diane Sussman is a Weekly senior staff writer.

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