Gilly Joel. Bumper. Liberty. And yes, Jaws. Many Jaws.
A tsunami of about 1,000 entries brought humor, personal stories and local life into the adventure to name a shark tagged off Long Island this week by Ocearch, the nonprofit that studies these apex predators around the world.
Sure, there was Quint, Mundus, Amity and a host of names related to the “Jaws” blockbuster novel and movie that cemented the shark’s toothsome reputation — a tale based on a Long Island fisherman and set in a fictional Long Island town.
Others campaigned for such names as Fluffy and Cuddles because they wanted to turn around the predator’s evil image.
But if the challenge was to come up with names that reflect Long Island’s heritage and way of life, the themes surfaced like fins above water.
One was Long Island’s Piano Man, Billy Joel. Or Gilly Joel, Billy Jawl, Billy Jaws — you get it.
His hits were hits for shark names too, from Big Shot to Captain Jack for the boss of the seas. Several gave a nod to the song, “Downeaster Alexa,” Joel’s fish tale about the vanishing baymen plying a depleted ocean, including Jenn Vermilye of Floral Park, who wrote “It’s Long Island’s unofficial anthem, so it’s beyond perfect!”
But if it’s an irrefutable fact of life that the Long Island Expressway is the world’s biggest parking lot and that commuting is just a form of torture, a shark name must chomp on traffic, right?
One suggested Traffic Jammy, others Bumper and one liked Parkway because a parkway leads to the ocean.
Gus Chappory of Greenlawn rooted for Dashing Dan because sharks are “just like our commuters. He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere . . . Unless there is a ‘slight delay.’ ”
Yes, shark fans exposed the downsides to life on Long Island too, with an undercurrent of sarcasm.
From New Hyde Park, Bob Busch said he had a suggestion that was so Long Island — NIMBY, an acronym for “not in my backyard” because, he wrote, “I don’t want that shark near LI LOL.”
In Merrick, Mark Ciliotta jabbed at the government (think Jaws and taxes here) with his Shark Atax.
A Manorville resident pitched Loan, writing that “no one can live on Long Island without having many loans.” And waaaiiit for it — “Some people even use a Loan Shark.”
But many gloried in what made Long Island distinctive in their eyes such as BagelsnLox, Gatsby, Diner and Dunes. Peconic took many forms, including Peconic Pete, Peconic Eddie, Peconic Queen and Peconic Penny.
MOJO paid tribute to Robert Moses, one of the architects of the Island’s infrastructure, and Maj. Thomas Jones, whose name graces one of the state’s most popular beaches. Atlantic Sounder combined the two bodies of water surrounding the Island. President Theodore Roosevelt scored with Teddy, Rough Riders and Sagamore, his Oyster Bay home.
The original Long Islanders were not forgotten on the list. Sachem, Shinnecock, Pow Wow and their variations frequently popped up, but one name was mentioned repeatedly.
“Paumanok, as it is one of the names the Native Americans gave Long Island when they first settled here,” a Northport woman wrote. “It is said to mean ‘the island that pays tribute.’<TH>”
And in the short space of a shark name submission, many wrote touchingly of what made Long Island great for them. Taking their children to the beaches. Lazing on a summer day by the water. An appreciation for nature, including the shark’s strength and the beauty of its marbled skin.
So which name will it be?
Ocearch’s founder Chris Fischer said he will pick before the nonprofit’s research ship returns to port Friday night.
So far, Ocearch has given the names Montauk, Hudson, Hampton and Gotham to four great white “pups” tagged off the East End in the past few days. They’ve been active pingers on the nonprofit’s Global Shark Tracker, which means they’re surfacing long enough for satellites to estimate their locations.
There’s a chance the Ocearch team won’t be able to spot and bring in any more sharks before the expedition ends.
The team didn’t tag any sharks during the first week of the expedition, which set out Aug. 13 from Montauk, but the second week, researchers were surprised to catch just about one young, white shark a day. They want to know whether the waters here are birthing and nursery grounds for great whites, a key part of keeping the ecosystem in balance.