The Internets. Can't live with them. Can't kill them.
Unadulterated flapdoodle comes oozing through the series of tubes that make up our online world.
Some stuff is life-altering. I, for one, cannot wait for my $5 million to arrive from Senegal as the result of the terrible misfortune that befell "Mr. Benjamin Ngora," who needed a U.S. bank account to stash his cash. All I had to do was respond to his e-mail with my Social Security number, date of birth and savings account number.
Two minutes of typing and my $5 million was on the way. I'm buying everyone a beer. Is this a great country, or what?
Then there's the other online stuff. A colleague at the newspaper forwarded to me an e-mail with photo attachments and asked for my professional opinion.
My co-worker got it from a relative who got it from a fishing guide who got it from "a regular" customer.
"Could this have happened?" wrote my colleague, who shall remain nameless. (As a soon-to-be millionaire, I can afford to be magnanimous.)
What luck. A real news tip from a relative of a colleague who got it from a fishing guide who got it from a regular. That's good enough for me.
Let me share my second scoop of wealth with you. Here's the beginning of the e-mail tale:
"Chesapeake Bay, near Route 50 Bay Bridge and Sandy Point State Park ... at last I have the ultimate excuse not to do the `Polar Bear Plunge' in January. It's not only crazy to jump into freezing cold water, it could be downright dangerous! Note the expression on the face of the man wearing the red baseball cap. He's still scared half out of his wits and glad to be alive!"
The missive continues (it has been cleaned up to adhere to Sun style and the laws of English grammar):
"Annapolis - While the vessel Dawn Raider out of Marklys Marina in Essex was fishing for striped bass (also locally known as rockfish), this great white was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside the boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope around its tail!!! And that's when things heated up!!
"The shark took off towing the 42-foot fishing boat backward through the water at about 7 knots. As in Jaws, the boat was taking on water over the stern, and the crew watched in horror as the shark would actually jump completely out of the water at times.
"This went on for an hour before the shark finally drowned. She weighed in at 1,035 pounds. It is suspected she followed a weak El Nino current into local waters in search of food. Although mid-60-degree water is considered ideal for these sharks, the larger ones can tolerate water in the low 50s."
Stop the presses. How lucky can an outdoors writer get? It was enough to make me put down my steaming cup of sludge from the Mr. Mud Machine.
Fingers trembling, I dialed experts at the Department of Natural Resources. That quickly, I hung up as my brain processed the e-mail information.
The name of the Middle River marina is Markley's, not Marklys. The shark in the photo is a mako, not a great white. A closer look at the crane holding the big fish shows it is marked with a "902" area code. That would be Nova Scotia.
I Googled the name of the boat, and wound up on the snopes.com Web site, a major clearinghouse for urban myths.
The female mako was caught in August 2004 during the Yarmouth Shark Scramble tournament. It weighed 1,082 pounds. Jamie Doucette reeled it in after a 40-minute battle. He won $3,000 for his effort. A local newspaper said the shark chewed through the steel leader and ropes other fishermen were using to haul it in.
Doucette said he felt bad about killing a shark in the prime of her reproductive years and would have cut the line, except for the fact that his tournament-happy friends on board wouldn't let him.
Typing some more, I discovered the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory Web site. It's not unusual to find makos that far up the Eastern seaboard, but Doucette's catch was by far the heaviest ever taken.
The catch is old news in Nova Scotia, but not so elsewhere. The hoax has taken on new life in fishing towns on Canada's west coast, Washington state and off the coast of Texas.
The Web site for Yarmouth magazine, the maritime province equivalent of Baltimore magazine, has a long list of folks from all around the world - South Africa, Thailand, Australia - whose chains have been yanked by the great white hoax.
So it was only a matter of time before a client told his Chesapeake Bay fishing guide who told the relative of my colleague, who passed it along to me.
As Carla Allen, the photographer who snapped the shot that started it all, noted in an e-mail to Yarmouth: "This shark continues to live."