Every now and then I get asked about this picture or it shows up in an e-mail. Here’s what the e-mail says:
So let’s take a look at the different elements of the picture and what we know about them.
The Helicopter is in actually a US Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk. Even more interestingly, on a US Air Force web site can find this picture associated with a fact sheet on the Pave Hawk.
Ah, the story is starting to unravel.
What about the location of the picture? Is this South Africa? If you look at the picture, you will notice in the background a distinctive bridge of a redish color. From what we can see, it is obviously a very large bridge. In fact it is very famous. It’s turns out to be the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
The picture is very likely the 129th Rescue Wing of the California National Guard in training. They are based at the Moffett Federal Airfield on the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Their website included the picture below.
Here’s another picture of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
So how does the shark fit in? Well perhaps this is where we find the only thread of truth in the story, however thin it may be. The picture of the shark was taken by Underwater Photographer Charles Maxwell. National Geographic’s web site contains the picture below and from the caption you can infer that it was taken off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.
The great white shark weighs about 1200 kg or over 2500 lbs. I asked a pilot friend of mine what would happen if a helicopter hovering no more than 12-15 feet off the water were suddenly pulled down on by a that much weight. He said that the helicopter would be underwater swimming with the shark. I’m sure that would have made the news . . .
What about the photo of the year? Yes, that seems to be made up as well…. At this point I don’t think you are suprised.
So there you have it, for those of you who ever wanted to know the anatomy of a hoax.