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Jumping into shark infested waters from 'Jaws Bridge'

Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts was the filming location for this 70's blockbuster about a shark terrorising the fictional community of Amity Island.


“Don’t Go in the Water” warned the posters in 1975 and after watching Jaws in the cinema for the first time, an awful lot of people didn’t. Never before or since has a film so successfully tapped into our primal fear of what lurks just out of sight, under the surface and in the depths below. Complimenting Stephen Spielberg’s ground-breaking underwater photography is one of the most effective pieces of horror music since Psycho. John William’s threatening score can still fill you with terror, especially if it drifts into your consciousness while you are swimming and you think you see a dark shape move just out of the corner of your goggles.


the sort of place where tourism would really take a knock if a killer shark actually came to visit.

Jaws was filmed on location in the swanky island resort of Martha’s Vineyard, with Edgartown becoming the fictional town of Amity, where the tourist industry is seriously being hampered by an extremely hungry and resourceful Great White Shark. Spielberg chose the Vineyard as the film’s location, as the island boasts 12 miles of shallow sandy water, perfect for filming with his mechanical sharks, all collectively known as Bruce. The island, which is located six miles off the coast of Massachusetts, also has a quaint historic small town feel, the sort of place where tourism would really take a knock if a killer shark actually came to visit.


Once you reach Martha’s Vineyard by ferry, by far the best way of exploring is to hire a bike, while there is even a list of Jaws locations to be visited. Many island landmarks appeared in the film and Vineyard residents were used as extras during the shooting. Edgartown became the fictional town of Amity, where the tourist industry is seriously being hampered by an extremely hungry and resourceful Great White Shark. Edgartown is well known as having been one of the primary ports for the whaling industry during the 1800s. Ships from all over the world would dock in its sheltered bay and captains would build grand mansions for their families with ornate top floor rooms called widow's walks, which overlooked the harbour. Wives would watch for months from these tiny rooms, hoping to see the sails of ships that would bring their husbands home from the sea.



Martha’s Vineyard itself has long been a hangout for vacationing celebrities and presidents, and the cost of living on the island is 60 percent higher than the national average and housing prices are 96 percent higher. The island received international notoriety after the Chappaquiddick incident in 1969, in which Mary Jo Kopechne was killed when a car driven by U.S. Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy drove off the Dike Bridge. Kennedy family tragedy struck again in 1999, when a small plane crashed off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, claiming the lives of pilot John F. Kennedy, Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren Bessette. The actor John Belushi is also buried on the island.


Jumping from the bridge into the water has become a rite of passage for millions of youngsters over the years

It’s on a crowded Joseph A Sylvia State Beach that Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) watches in horror as the shark kills young Alex Kitner on his lilo. The shark then swims under the American Legion Memorial Bridge – now known as “Jaws Bridge” into the ‘safe’ inlet of Sengekontacket Pond, where Brody’s son and his friends are having a sailing lesson. The sailing teacher isn’t quite as lucky as the traumatised boys. Jumping from the bridge into the water has become a rite of passage for millions of youngsters over the years, undeterred by the areas film history.



It seems that every couple of years, reports of sightings of Great White’s off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard hit the newspapers, making for tasty headlines. Realistically the last attack in the Massachusetts area is believed to have been way back in 1936, with only three attacks in history. That said, I defy anyone swimming off one of the beaches as the John Williams theme tune floats into their heads, not to feel even a tad anxious. I certainly did when I jumped off the bridge (after first checking the depth, obviously) and I wasn’t hanging around before I swam back to shore.

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