'Jaws' boat the Orca will sail again to help save sharks

·3-min read
L-R: American actors Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw on board a boat in a still from the film, 'Jaws,' directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975. (Photo by Universal Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images)
L-R: American actors Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw on board a boat in a still from the film, 'Jaws,' directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975. (Photo by Universal Studios/Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Orca, the boat that featured in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, is headed back to the waters of New England, but this time, its mission isn't to hunt sharks: It's to help save them.

A group of ocean advocates and movie buffs are turning an old lobster fishing vessel into a replica of the Orca, the boat captained by the grizzled shark hunter Quint in the 1975 hit. The work is taking place on Martha's Vineyard, where Spielberg shot the blockbuster movie in the 1970s.

The occasion doesn't call for a bigger boat so much as one with a different purpose, said Vineyard native David Bigelow, who acquired the craft and is heading up the project.

When finished, he said, Orca III will be used as an educational tool to help the public understand sharks and as a research vessel for scientists.

This July 20, 2020 photo provided by David Bigelow in Vineyard Haven, Mass. shows part of a boat that is being retrofitted to replicate the boat from the movie Jaws. A group of ocean lovers and movie buffs is building a replica of the boat, the Orca, for use as a conservation tool. (David Bigelow via AP)
This July 20, 2020 photo provided by David Bigelow in Vineyard Haven, Mass. shows part of a boat that is being retrofitted to replicate the boat from the movie Jaws. A group of ocean lovers and movie buffs is building a replica of the boat, the Orca, for use as a conservation tool. (David Bigelow via AP)

The project is dear to the heart of Bigelow, who appeared as an extra in Jaws, and to the memory of his drama teacher Lee Fierro, who played the mother of a shark attack victim. Reports of shark sightings on some New England beaches in recent years moved him to take on the project.

Read more: Robert Shaw’s son does an amazing impersonation of Quint

“The need to educate people about the new ecosystem we’re living in, because of climate change and the seal population, is probably our only defence,” Bigelow said, sighting two possible drivers of increased shark sightings.

“We have basically taken on this role where the boat is going to be used for education.”

Roy Scheider on top deck as crew set up to film a scene from the film 'Jaws', 1975. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
Roy Scheider on top deck as crew set up to film a scene from the film 'Jaws', 1975. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Bigelow said that he believes the retrofitting work can be completed by this fall and that the boat can start helping people study sharks by next spring. The boat will be called Orca III because there were actually two vessels in Jaws — Orca and Orca II. Orca is seen in much of the film, and Orca II was a prop vessel.

Others working on the mission to bring back the Orca have a connection to Jaws, too. Joe Alves, production designer on the movie, is on board, as is Chris Crawford, who retrofitted a boat called Warlock into the original Orca in 1974.

American actor Richard Dreyfuss (L) and British actor Robert Shaw (1927 - 1978) hold ropes while leaning off the back of their boat, 'Orca,' in pursuit of the giant Great White shark in a still from the film, 'Jaws,' directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Fotos International/Courtesy of Getty Images)
American actor Richard Dreyfuss (L) and British actor Robert Shaw (1927 - 1978) hold ropes while leaning off the back of their boat, 'Orca,' in pursuit of the giant Great White shark in a still from the film, 'Jaws,' directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Fotos International/Courtesy of Getty Images)

The conservation group Beneath The Waves has signed on to use the new Orca on expeditions. The group's board of directors includes Wendy Benchley, widow of Peter Benchley, who wrote the 1974 novel on which the movie is based.

“The return of the Orca is a celebration for the fans of Jaws, as well as an exciting new resource in the pursuit of a greater understanding about our oceans and the life teeming in it,” she said.

Reporting by AP

Jaws is available to stream on Now TV and Sky Go.

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