Bite Me

No, don’t. Just the very thought of a shark encounter is terrifying. I have friends that are scuba divers and surfers, who explore waters around the world. I say, no thank you. Sharks and other creatures can have the oceans. Parasailing or kayaking, nope. The only way I’d consider going out in the water would be on a boat. A big one.

I have waded in ocean water off of California, Georgia and Texas. By wading, I mean getting my feet wet. That’s it. I’ve been called a chicken. I accept that. I’m a live clucker, and proud of it. The ocean is wonderful to be around, it is almost mystical to me, but I respect its beauty, rage and habitat for things that can have me as an hors d’oeuvre.

Hal, our host.

I hate sharks, but am fascinated by shark encounters with humans. Okay, that’s weird, but I’m not alone. I visit a shark attack YouTube channel regularly, along with over 35,000 other subscribers. Hal, the host, does not show shark attack videos, he talks about specific attacks and the facts about them, without being overly gory. Hal does his research and knows a thing or two about sharks and encounters. He focuses on shark bites since the 1900s and has his sources of information.

Hal is folksy and his humor is dry; he respectfully tells the stories and injects odd truths along the way. Some of the encounters was rather bizarre, maybe not funny, but head-scratching.

In an encounter with a great white, bull or tiger shark, a person is likely to lose – at least a limb. A shark may be a better adversary than an alligator or crocodile. Only about one in four shark attacks are fatal; crocs and alligators are more likely to kill and eat you.

From the autopsy report of a body surfer who may have wandered into an area where seals are hunted.

Why anyone goes out into the water is beyond me. Swim, surf or dive in Florida? No way. The same goes for venturing into marshy areas or rivers down there. Alligators and crocs – no thank you. And yet, you can easily find videos of nitwits filming themselves around these creatures and tempting fate.

The probability of attack depends on many factors including location, time of day, water temperature, roughness of waves, proximity to feeding areas, activity, how the person is dressed and so forth. As climate change raises water temperature, more areas are home to sharks, and certainly as food populations under go change. Sharks are venturing closer to shore and areas usually safe for swimmers/surfers/divers/kayakers. The shark habitat/hunting areas are expanding.

Enlarged area where sharks are found on the West coast.

The U.S. accounted for a whopping 64% of the total worldwide attacks in 2019, followed by Australia, South Africa, Brazil and New Zealand.

The past few days I’ve been watching stories about mainly Australia and South Africa. Not only are the oceans and beach areas dangerous, but also rivers. I cannot believe the confidence or stupidity of those who tempt fate, especially with crocodiles. If you have read accounts of attacks by great white sharks or crocodiles, they are incredibly fast for as large as they get, and can leap from the water into the air. Terrifying.

Around 1,000 people die from crocodile bites every year. There have been 401 confirmed cases of alligator bites in Florida since 1948, with 23 fatalities. Florida accounts for 51% of all US and 33% of all global attacks of this kind. This might be the reason for the fascination for alligators and crocodiles – the danger. I do not need to watch a person feed or play with one, or go on a boat ride to see them leap from the water.

The movie Jaws did a disservice to sharks. Even author Peter Benchley later regretted popularizing and evoking the pushback against sharks after the success of his book and the film. The 2021 worldwide total of 73 confirmed unprovoked cases was in line with the most recent five-year (2016-2020) average of 72 incidents annually. For 2020, there were 57 confirmed incidents and 41 the year before. For the millions of times each year that people go into the water, 72 attacks is a very low number, yet no one wants to be one of those statistics.

What are people doing when they encounter a shark: 61% of shark attacks involve board sports and surfing. Swimmers were involved in 26% of shark attacks. Snorkelers and free divers account for 4% of all attacks. In comparison, body surfers and scuba divers make up 5% and 4% of incidents, respectively.

This diver somehow got away with injuries.

Jaws, that 1975 film scared the shit out of a lot of people, me included. The scariest part was not the shark attacks, it was the story Quint told the others about the USS Indianapolis sinking. Sharks feasted on hundreds of sailors who ended up in the water after two torpedos slammed into that ship. If you recall, that ship was on a secret mission and the sinking went unreported, leaving those men to the sharks.

USS Indianapolis

The USS Indianapolis had a crew of 1,195. Only 316 live bodies, after almost five days at sea, of the 890 that survived the sinking. It is believed that at least 150 men were eaten alive, with more than 400 succumbing to exposure, injuries, saltwater poisoning and other causes. Oceanic whitetip sharks, in the hundreds, are thought to have heard the explosions and noise from the sinking, as well as being able to sense blood from up to three miles away. Sharks feasted on dead and injured, before honing in on the other men. The stories are horrific.

I will continue to watch Hal’s videos as I find his stories fascinating/scary. I do not need to step foot in the ocean or river for a thrill. Now, if I could only avoid the land sharks.


2 thoughts on “Bite Me

  1. As a hiker, I’m amazed at how many people obsess over bears, even relatively harmless black bears. Everyone has his or her own phobias. I can’t go near a skyscraper window, my wife obsesses over even harmless snakes, our daughter freaks out over mice, and our son freaks out over spiders. Try to keep in mind, Mike, not all sharks are great whites, tigers, or makos. I don’t know the numbers, but many are completely benign (nurse, lemon, sand). You should at least try snorkeling in the ocean. It’s a wonderful way to experience peaceful, colorful marine life. I’m sure dropping in on Hal is a lot of fun, but you’re receiving a skewed impression.

    Like

    1. Thanks, Pete. You’re right about the wonders of the ocean. My view of the ocean and it’s dangers have been shaped over many years. I think I’m doomed to appreciate the water from a ship or sandy beach.

      Liked by 1 person

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