Michael Dornellas, who runs an ocean safari company, used a crate full of bait to get within touching distance of the enormous female shark off Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, to emulate the poster for 1975’s ‘Jaws.’

Image: Solent New/REX/Shutterstock

It’s finally here, one of the most sacred summer traditions in the U.S.A.: Shark Week.

As the nation prepares for this momentous occasion, let us look back: What is Shark Week? How and when did it start, and what are the origins of this grand tradition?

To celebrate the arrival of Shark Week and almost 30 years of these cartilaginous fish, we took a look back at Shark Week through the years.

One could and is arguing that our nation’s obsession with what some might call “angry, toothed dolphins” began after Stephen Spielberg’s 1975 thriller Jaws. In the film, a new England beach town is terrorized by a massive, murderous shark with a taste for human flesh.

In 1988, 13 years after Jaws, Discovery Channel launched Shark Week, which would become an annual celebration/fascination with sharks and all the shark-related television one could muster. In its first year, that included Caged in Fear, Sharks — Predators or Prey, The Shark Takes a Siesta, and Sharks of a Different Color. 

Shark Week was so successful that Discovery decided not to make it a one-time thing, but an annual event. In 1992 they called it Shark Week: They’re Back (featuring The Man Who Loves Sharks) and in 1993 Shark Week: We Dare You to Watch (African Shark Safari, Teeth of Death, Sharks of Pirate Island).

In 1994, Shark Week had its first host: Jaws author Peter Benchley. In 1995, the rare Golden Hammerhead shark made its debut, and 1996 marked the premiere of the hugely popular Tales of the Tiger Shark.

Starting in 2002, Shark Week got truly lit with a celebrity theme that had famous faces literally swimming with sharks (and not the Hollywood kind). In 2005, Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman hosted the shaw and aired a “Jaws Special.” 

As of 2010, Shark Week became the longest-running cable event. Andy Samberg hosted in 2011, and Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives aired in 2013. The “Shark Week Sharktacular” aired in 2015, pulling the best of Shark Week over time.

Shark Week 2017, which kicks off Sunday night, promises to be a big one as we close in on 30 years of Shark fun. Michael Phelps is set to literally race a shark

One hopes that 30 years from now, Shark Week will remain a constant, and the it will eventually outlive us all.

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