He was the first person on the dock to greet oceanographer Matthew Hooper.
As a seasoned fisherman of game fish in the region, Gardner had hoped to collect the reward for catching the rogue shark that had plagued the Island of Amity in the summer of 1974 after it attacked and killed Chrissie Watkins. The ensuing frenzy to win the bounty offered by Mrs. Kintner created a disorganized 'shark posse' armada with Gardner and his first-mate leading the pack. Sometime late in the afternoon or evening of the first day out in search of his quarry, a large Great White Shark attacks Gardner's boat. Bite marks in the hull were found by Matt and Martin during a subsequent investigation. Hooper finds a shark tooth within the hull and discovers Gardner in the boat, dead. This, caused Hooper to drop the tooth and swim up to the surface in terror. No trace of his first-mate was found and his fate remains unknown.
APD POLICE REPORT: Dr. Matthew Hooper stated in a subsequent APD police report that he initially saw a shark tooth stuck in the wrecked hull of the boat. While attempting to remove the tooth, Ben's head suddenly appeared, causing him to fumble and drop it into the murky water below. The head was, however, not mentioned by Hooper to the mayor during a well-publicized dispute.
This attack, unfortunately, did little to convince the mayor to close the beaches in order to prevent further resulting attacks that summer. The body was later discovered as the boat was towed in, and it was determined to in fact be the remains of Mr. Benjamin Gardner.
- Possibly a continuity error, his boat was painted green when Ben was hunting the shark, but after Martin and Matt discover the wreck, it was dark blue in color.
- He is the first character in the franchise to have their corpse used as a jumpscare, before Diane in Jaws 2 and Shelby Overman in Jaws 3-D.
- His boat was later painted white and red and placed on display at Universal Studios in Hollywood at the Jaws Lake. It was removed from the attraction in 2005.
- His floating head jump-scare is heralded as an iconic moment in horror movie history, with similarly-inspired jump-scares appearing in subsequent Jaws sequels, as well as other shark movies such as Deep Blue Sea, with Stellan Skarsgård's character's corpse frightening Thomas Jane's character in a scene during the movie.