In 2013, Discovery Channel kicked off Shark Week with a fake documentary on the long-extinct Megalodon, including fake scientists and made-up “sightings.” Despite outrage by loyal viewers, the channel offered additional fake documentaries on the subject in 2014.
The 2013 show, entitled Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives, included fake scientists (aka “actors”) with scripted “evidence” and eyewitness sightings. The only hint that the “documentary” was fake came in a brief notice which explained that the Megalodon was about a film about legend – not a documentary based on science.
The film began with bold statements such as, “They are thought to be extinct. But there is evidence of Megalodon’s existence today.”
There is, however, no such evidence as the show’s minuscule disclaimer pointed out.
The 2009 Hawaii sighting mentioned in the documentary? Fake. The 1942 German photo? Also not real.
Although the Megalodon has been extinct for around 2 million years, the faux documentary implied that there have been recent sightings of the creature. The quick disclaimer read:
None of the institutions or agencies that appear in the film are affiliated with it in any way, nor have approved its contents. Though certain events and characters in this film have been dramatized, sightings of “Submarine” continue to this day. Megalodon was a real shark. Legends of giant sharks persist all over the world. There is still a debate about what they may be.
An open letter by Discover Magazine blasted the documentary, declaring, “you’ve gone from ‘the world’s #1 nonfiction media company’ to peddling lies and faking stories for ratings.”
In the wake of the documentary, Discovery Channel’s Facebook page lit up with angry comments from viewers who felt duped. Shark Week executive producer Michael Sorenson defended the film to FOX411:
“With a whole week of Shark Week programming ahead of us, we wanted to explore the possibilities of Megalodon. It’s one of the most debated shark discussions of all time, can Megalodon exist today? It’s Ultimate Shark Week fantasy. The stories have been out there for years and with 95% of the ocean unexplored, who really knows?”
Despite the viewer outcry, it has been reported that the Megalodon special drew the highest ratings ever for a Shark Week special.
Watch a video clip of the documentary below:
2014 Shark Week
In 2014, Discovery’s Shark Week included re-runs of the original Megalodon special, along with new episodes on the purported “Submarine” 30-foot shark and a special entitled “Megalodon: The New Evidence.” As with the 2013 documentary, the new documentary was a work of fiction, despite its description which read:
Collin Drake returns to share new details of his case and present the shocking new evidence of the existence of Megalodon, an enormous prehistoric shark that could still be roaming the oceans.
Angry readers have boycotted the channel and created petitions urging Discovery to return to truthful documentaries.
In September 2014, an article circulated which claimed that a 15-ton megalodon was discovered off the coast of Pakistan. That story, however, was satire.
Megalodon is extinct and there is no evidence that it has lived in modern times. Discovery Channel’s “documentaries” on the subject are works of complete fiction. No actual scientific evidence is presented, and eyewitness “sightings” of the creature are fictional.
Did you watch shark week in 2013 or 2014? What are your thoughts?
- Shark Week bites: Discovery criticized for hugely misleading documentary (Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge: August 5, 2013)
- Shark Week Jumps The Shark: An Open Letter To Discovery Communications (Christie Wilcox, Discover: August 5, 2013)
- Discovery Channel defends its decision to air ‘dramatized’ ‘Megalodon’ (Leora Arnowtz, FoxNews.com: August 6, 2013)
- Megalodon Documentary Hoax Achieves Shark Week Ratings Highs (Chelsea Regan, UInterview News: August 6, 2013)