S is for Sharks

Well of course it is! I blame Peter Benchley. If he had not written that novel, Jaws, Steven Spielberg would never have had a giant robo-shark built for his sensationalist movie, the movie that scared people from swimming at the beach forever and ever. I refused to see the movie, being on the side of the shark, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of it as sharks became the demons of the sea in the collective consciousness.  I saw a preview of it in a theater once and I have never been able to get the image out of my head.   I never read the book, either. I don’t deliberately go out and search for things that will scare the shit out of me, and neither should you.

I like my sharks extra cute.

I like my sharks extra cute.

Benchley claimed he was an ocean conservationist and his story was meant to raise consciousness about the plights of our oceans and to educated the public about the dearth of knowledge about sharks. Really, Peter? Really? By making the sea in to a place that is the stuff of horror movies? That’s how you choose to do it? Ok. Well, you are dead, so you can’t defend yourself. But, hmmm. My hero Jacques Cousteau didn’t like your book or your movie, and neither do I. Let’s check the Fearometer.

Well, it’s pretty decently high. Maybe it will get lower as time goes on. I really look forward to snorkeling over reefs and swimming in the ocean. I remember as a child swimming in the Gulf of Mexico without fear, even as people were catching sharks with rods and reels from the beach. I remember, too, seeing one swimming in a wave. But they never bothered me and I let them live their lives in peace.

I think the difference between then and now is that it has been decades since I swam in the sea. (Except for the few times in Hawaii a few years back. And I was pretty vigilant but refused to be stopped.) My plan is to swim where the locals swim, and stay out of the areas where people are fishing, to stay out of the water at dusk, avoid movements resembling a distressed fish, and possibly disguise myself as poisonous seal. I’m guessing I’ll probably always check the water first, before jumping in. I mean, why not?

I swam in this water. It was supposed to be the local swimming hole. It was bloody cold. But fortunately, no sharks. Thank goodness. Still, I was a little worried because that water is not clear. You see nothing under you. Shudder.

I know someone whose son-in-law was killed by a shark in Hawaii. He was fishing from his kayak and dangling his foot in the water. The shark doesn’t know the difference between a fish and your foot, people. Keep dangling body parts out of the water when you are fishing where sharks want to steal your catch for an easy meal. Seems like just good sense to me. Think about it.  I shop where it’s easiest for me to shop. Why should sharks drive way across town to buy organic when they can get a quick bite where they live? It’s just good sense.

You know what else we won’t be doing? We won’t be swimming behind the boat, attached with a line (like shark bait, you know) when we’re at sea. I know there is all this romance associated with taking a dip in the briny deep, swimming naked attached to your boat with only a tiny line, but guess what? No. That’s what. Just no. I say ‘we’ here because I suspect my romance minded spouse would love to take a dip in the middle of the Pacific, tied to Galapagos only by a floating line, the kind sharks think are fishing line. )That’s right, buddy. I’m talking to you!)

Mike tried his hand at fishing this summer and caught this little Dogfish shark, twice. I got to pet him. He was kind of cute, and had no teeth. So it was OK.

So where once deep water felt ok to me, it’s been so long that I’ve lost my groove with it. It makes me anxious to think of sharks being close to me in the water. But, after all, most people feel that way, too. It’s just one of those human things to be worried about monsters with teeth, at home in their own element when you are so outside of your own. I’m pretty sure I’ll get over that one. Well, probably anyhow. Maybe.



14 thoughts on “S is for Sharks

  1. Sharks are one of the many things that freak me out, even the ones that I know are harmless. I’m not too fond of barracudas either. There is something to be said for being exposed to something for a while. Alligators used to also be on my list of scary monsters, but I’m so used to seeing them everyday swimming by my boat that they don’t freak me out anymore.

    • Yes, after awhile our ‘normal’ gets updated. I’m counting on that! I think alligators are interesting and cool creatures and I would love seeing them. However, it would give me pause to swim with them. Why take that chance? It takes all the fun out of swimming when you are worried about being eaten.

  2. The thing about taking a swim off your boat in the middle of the ocean is that if there are any sharks in the area, they will very likely want to investigate you. Pelagic sharks are pretty much geared to check out anything unusual to see if it has food potential, and mammals (that’s us) in the water in the middle of the ocean are unusual. Sharks don’t have hands, so they investigate by bumping and/or biting to see if it’s edible. Even if the shark doesn’t eat you, it can harm or kill you in the process of its investigation. Costeau commented in one of his books that every time they saw oceanic whitetips the shark(s) came over the check them out, and many were aggressive. (This is a different species from reef whitetips, which are generally pretty shy.) He said he was more way of them more than white sharks because of their aggressive nature. But any shark in the middle of the ocean isn’t going to pass up the chance for a meal.

    • My thoughts exactly. Well said. When I was younger and a budding marine biologist, a career plan that never came to fruition, I read all of Jacques Cousteu’s writing. I did absolutely worship the man and was bereft when he died. Perhaps on some level I remember him writing that. I just know that the pelagic species are more dangerous and I figure if I take the easy way out and shop at the local Safeway, why wouldn’t they? Seriously. Why tempt them? I also remember reading in some woman’s book on her sailing adventures (It’s a classic book, but I cannot recall the name just now) that she was afraid of sharks in the ocean and would never swim when her companions on board did. One time one of the men was swimming and just coming up the ladder when a tiger shark jumped up behind him and he barely missed becoming a tasty morsel. I don’t have to read that more than once to know that I have no desire to tempt that fate. None.

    • Sudden drop offs. I’m not a fan of those either. When we snorkeled in Hawaii I always stayed well inside the boundaries of the reef. I know I missed a lot of cool stuff on the reef edge, but I probably missed big sharks as well.

  3. Anyone who has ever seen Jaws knows how you feel. It’s a love/hate relationship for most of us. We fear the animals and yet adore Discovery for Shark Week every year.

    • I have always been fascinated by sharks, in an academic way. I used to know way more about them than I do now. I’ve stayed away from Shark Week, though, because why tempt myself to be more worried than I already would be.

  4. Sharks, eels, stingrays, jellyfish . . . it doesn’t really matter. I find them all creepy which is probably why I like cruising in the Pacific Northwest so much — the waters too cold for swimming!

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