Aussie Shark Attack HORROR™

An 18 year old man drowned at 4pm on Christmas Eve this year.

Like many swimmers on Australian beaches he was caught in a “rip”, a savage undertow flowing away from the beach. Swimmers, dragged from the safety of the shore, instinctively try to swim against the current and, tiring rapidly, can drown within minutes.

Experienced surfers and life savers tell novices, there is only one way to react being caught in a rip, swim parallel to the beach until you are out of the undertow and, only then, head back in to land.

But, as I found out when I first moved to Australia, it’s hard to think straight when you are swept 200m out to sea. The beach rapidly recedes to the distance. Your fellow beachgoers mere ants on the horizon. The water darkens to a deep, deep blue.

And what goes through your mind at a time like this?

Is it “Help! I’m going to drown!”?

Of course it’s not…

…it’s “SHARK!!!!”

I saw Jaws at the age of 14. Scariest. Movie. Ever.

But, while sharks have not been responsible for one single death* in Australian waters to date in 2009, over 300 people have drowned. Why is it that people obsess over the danger they face from sharks rather than the danger they face from the water?

Could an incident, which occurred on Avoca Beach this Boxing Day, provide some clues perhaps?

The three Australian TV networks led with variations on the “Shark Attack Horror” theme and, on a slow news day, it seemed a story tailor made for breathless hyperbole. Grandfather – in water with granddaughter – on day after Christmas – gets bitten on leg by shark.

Did the child cry a last minute warning to her ancient Grandad perhaps?

Did he fight the shark off, protecting the toddler from the ravenous beast?

Is this a Christmas miracle?

Cue shots of lifesavers clearing the beach. Interviews with panicked holidaymakers vowing to never set foot in the water again. A “Shark Expert” explaining how to avoid attack (Avoid swimming at dusk or dawn. Don’t wear shorts made from bacon).

Then, dramatically, Channel Nine snagged the big one… an interview with the granddaughter herself.

And here, verbatim, is the interview transcript…

Grandad stepped on a shark and it bit him

Yes, you heard it right, stepped on a shark. The squished fish couldn’t have been more than a couple of feet long. But the word BITE + SHARK = ATTACK in the all-seeing eye of the media and thus shall it be for ever more…

I do wonder sometimes however… if the news of tragic drownings, such as the one on Christmas Eve, featured more prominently on the news. And if they were accompanied by useful advice on how to deal with being caught in a rip instead of being relegated to a 15 second mention before the sport.

How many people would consider that before swimming rather than the possibility of being eaten?

And how many of those 300 or so people would still be alive?

 

Beginners tip No.1 - Always swim between the flags

* A couple of people did get rather nastily munched, however.

Further reading at Notes: Man Bites Shark

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3 Responses

  1. Heh. Munch.

    Snigger

  2. […] with the ocean tides and the swimming skills of swimmers. Those are the things that kill. Aussie Shark Attack HORROR? Notes from the Bartender […]

  3. […] Aussie Shark Attack HORROR™ « Notes from the Bartender, on January 2nd, 2010 at 11:40 pm Said: […]

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