So you won’t be eaten


The kids and I went to the beach on Saturday.  Apart from the fact that there is a chance that you could be eaten there, most people would say our beach is beautiful.  As summer arrives, the Indian Ocean wraps around your pale ankles like an old friend welcoming you back to its embrace.  Gentle waves roll in from the direction of Africa somewhere far away across the faint horizon. 

But the fact remains that it is a place where you can end up as the plate du jour of any one of at least three of the world’s most dangerous sharks: the White Pointer, the Tiger Shark and the Bull. 

Now, it is also true that the chances of being eaten by a shark are roughly 1:11 million, a statistic that stimulates many a trip to the beach but is strangely irrelevant as one enters the water. And, of course, Australia is not the place you are most likely to be attacked – that honour rests with mainland United States (around 800 attacks since records have been kept).   But we are in second place (at 305) and, I hasten to add, you are more likely to actually die from the bite of an Australian shark (39 deaths in the US; 136 in Australia).  Whether this is a tribute to Antipodean man-eaters or a dubious comment on the frailty of Australians themselves is uncertain.   

Anyway, what is clear is that my beach is potentially a place of salty carnage.  So here are four tips to avoid being eaten:

  1. Always leave as many people as possible between you and the open sea – personally I look for the fat and the young figuring that they represent more value for effort on the part of the shark (those with children will find this quite easy to manipulate by simply encouraging the kids to float a bit further out).
  2. Since 90% of shark attacks are on men, it’s worth considering placing yourself in the middle of a lot of women swimmers.  On the other hand, in the eyes of a shark, this may make you stand out as the one desirable lobster in a sea of shrimps.
  3. There is some evidence that swimming with other animals increases your likelihood of being attacked by a shark.  Take you dog to the beach and keep throwing its ball in the direction of the swimmers farthest from you.
  4. Sharks tend to feed on the edge of deep water.  Organise all the kids on the beach to race around the buoy that’s furthest from the shoreline. 

 As Lenny Bruce used to say, intellectual awareness has its limitations.  I know that I have more chance of being killed in a car crash than being eaten by a Great White.   

And yet, when I’m treading water, somehow separated from all the other swimmers on the beach and there’s a shadow nearby that might please, please only be seaweed? 

I’d give a million bucks to be rolling 200 miles an hour, drunk at the wheel  down a Bangkok bypass instead.


Filed under australia, fear, humour, life, sharks

8 responses to “So you won’t be eaten

  1. This is what I call the “lottery effect”. I read that I have more chance of being murdered than of winning the lottery but I buy a ticket every week. Why? Because someone has to win and everyone’s chances of winning are equal. It can as easily be me who wins as Fred or Freda in Newcastle.

    Being bitten by a shark is nowhere as nice as winning the lottery but the odds are somewhat similar. It could as easily be you as someone else, all other things being equal.

    I could make my probability of winning exactly zero by not buying a ticket. You could make your probability of being bitten by a shark exactly zero by staying out of the water. Once I buy a ticket and you go into the water we both enter the sea of probability. The odds are vanishingly tiny in our “favour” (not much of a favour in your case) but you have an even better chance of “winning” than I have: there are at most 52 winners of the Saturday lottery per year and six times that number of “winners” in the shark lottery. Apparently there are fewer of you than us (despite the disparity in size of our respective countries) and this makes your odds even more “favourable”.

    All things considered, I would suggest you stay out of the water and buy a lottery ticket instead, assuming you have a lottery as we do.

    Email SilverTiger

  2. This is exactly why when we go to the Florida beach every spring, I never go in water where I can’t see my feet. That means I’m never more than about 10 feet from shore, in water no more than about knee high. I watch the people hundreds of feet out, swimming and splashing in an extremely shark-attractive manner, and I expect to see someone get pulled under any second. No, thanks; I’m a wimp, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! 😀

  3. Great writing! I enjoyed the humor that you laced into your story of shark infested waters.

  4. Loved this! Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way.

    Your piece reminds me of why my dad said he got me certified as a scuba diver at 16. The whole purpose of having a dive buddy is so that when you encounter a shark, “you can cut them and swim like hell.”

    Had my own close encounters with sharks and with a barracuda down in Panama once. Love the water, but I was traumatized young by Orca and Jaws, and it just always makes me antsy going in.

  5. Oh my goodness! This was a delightful read! Very funny and great writing!

  6. I hope you know that just reaffirmed my shark phobia, which, as a child, kept me out of every body of water including lakes and swimming pools. I may never put a toe in the ocean again.

  7. Silver Tiger – I have tried your lottery analogy. It also provides some (limited)comfort on aircraft e.g. “Hell, I never win the lottery so why would yI choose the one plane in a million that is going to crash?”
    Tiffany – Florida is the shark equivalent to a hot and cold buffet – wimp or wise? It all depends who survives…
    Desiree and TBM – I am really glad you got some pleasure out of this piece.
    Sean – I’ve got to hand it to anyone who can face their fears, especially once they have been realised (as in Panama). And you’re right – Jaws has a lot to answer for!

  8. NotoriousV – I think it is surprising how many people share this phobia. And yet, this weekend in my city, literally hundreds of people will swim in a race kilometres across the sea that separates an island from our shores. No one has died yet or even been attacked. The worst that happens is sea sickness and hypothermia. None of which gets me off the beach!

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