Regular readers might remember that I am not a fan of sharks. Selachophobia is my one completely irrational fear.
It is irrational for a few reasons. I know sharks have better things to do with their time that lurk in the shallows waiting for humans, so going to the beach isn’t really risky at all.
The main reason this fear is irrational is because we live more than an hour from the beach. Boats aren’t my thing either so unless one gets on the bus and turns up on my doorstep there is very little chance a shark and I will ever be trying to occupy the same space.
JG didn’t do me any favours the other day with her New Jersey shark post though. I remember seeing the movies about these events some years ago and thinking that the scene where the shark is spotted swimming under the bridge towards the unwitting ‘dinners’ splashing about upstream was a little too convenient and probably written in to the script to make the story more exciting. According to JG’s account of the events that’s how it really happened. Eeek.
For those of you who didn’t see that post (go and have a look), a quick summary is that up until 1916 people in New Jersey still lived safe in the knowledge that sharks only ate things like dolphins and seals. Humans were obviously not on the menu even though we are of a similar size and probably taste just as delicious*. In the early weeks of July 1916, after a few attacks in front of shocked onlookers, people realized that this assumption was totally wrong (and probably that all those previously attacked by sharks just didn’t live to point the finger).
The shark in 1916 not only attacked people on a beach, it also swam up a river and took some even more unsuspecting victims there.
Those of you who live in Australia (and South Africa, I suspect) will know that shark attacks in the news are not something unusual. We don’t see them all the time but we aren’t shocked when we hear of them, just unhappy. Of course we are happy for all you potential tourists to think that your average surfer dodges a Great White between every set.
I had to
rant post about sharks because I wanted to share this article. In 1935 a 14ft shark was placed in the Codgee Aquarium for the enjoyment of the masses.
The shark had been captured a week earlier and obviously had been having quite a few adventures recently.
In front of stunned onlookers it stopped swimming, thrashed about for a moment, and vomited up a human arm. The arm had a distinctive tattoo and a piece of rope tied around the wrist.
I bet the horrified crowd didn’t really care about the distinctive markings though and I am sure a few of them never went into the water again…..
The shark also disgorged other things, a bird, bones and parts of another smaller (6ft) shark who was the original eater of the arm (which is why it was intact enough after a week for fingerprints to be taken).
The arm turned out to be all that remained of James Smith, a petty criminal, and the story behind his death was one of the most convoluted stories in Australia’s legal history. Due to the lack of body, and the underworld creed of keeping your mouth shut, nobody was ever convicted of his murder (Dictionary of Sydney, wikipedia). Had the shark not eaten the smaller shark, then been captured by fishermen, Smith’s fate would have never been known.
Just because, and to show you that sharks really can pop up anywhere (so my fear is not entirely stupid) here is a clip from Brisbane, Queensland.
During flooding a few years ago half a dozen Bull Sharks were washed into the lake on a golf course and became a local attraction. Recently the course and lake were inundated again and those at the course were worried that their iconic sharks might have made their way back to the sea.
A later news article was happy to report that the sharks were still splashing about in the lake as usual, forgoing their chance at freedom. Maybe they have developed a taste for golf balls. After all, who is going in after a lost ball there! (I think the clip’s title ‘killer sharks’ is a bit of an over dramatization though….)
*I think that one day we might meet a killer whale with a taste for humans and our current assumption that they don’t eat us either will go the same way.