Shark Fear

“Bull sharks”: are highly aggressive and don’t mind shallow water one bit. They can even swim in fresh water for a time. I was obsessed with sharks when I was a kid, and read all that I could about them, especially one book that described a number of different species, with accompanying full-page color illustrations. One in particular — maybe it was the bull shark, I don’t recall — depicted a cross-section of a freshwater river in Madagascar. The top half of the page depicted two hapless native fisherman, and beneath them, a shark angled up out of the murky river water, ready to strike. Upon seeing that picture I rushed to find a world atlas so I could locate Madagascar and see how likely it would be for such a shark to make its way from there to Lake Michigan, where I’d swim from time to time. It was a long and arduous journey — around the Cape of Good Hope, up the coast of West Africa, and cutting across the Atlantic at some point. The shark couldn’t do so very far north because of the temperature (I checked), and it probably wouldn’t be able to hold its breath all the way across the ocean at a wider point to the St. Lawrence Seaway, and from there through the Sault Ste. Marie locks and eventually to the beach at Holland State Park. Probably. But I’d watch the Lake Michigan water with a suspicious eye, just the same.

In their battles against us, the sharks are losing. But they have the whole psychological-warfare part of the struggle sewn up. (They’re faring well when it comes to “propaganda”:, too.) They’ve got me beat, at any rate. I stood at the edge of the ocean yesterday, waves batting around my waist, and I couldn’t will myself to take a step further. This wasn’t entirely irrational, considering I’m in “Avon, North Carolina”: at the moment. But still. I had to wait for my buddy Joe to arrive before I could plunge in without fear — on theory that there’d be someone to pull me out if a shark gnawed off my leg or something.

Odds-wise, even here, not going into the water out of shark-fear is like updating your will just because you’ll be flying on a plane soon. And yet I still couldn’t make myself take that step alone. What purpose does this intimidation serve? Surely if the sharks wanted more of us for food, it would be better to lay off the “ravenous lurker” image and encourage more twilight swims. They must be _working_ on something down there, beneath the waves. Something they don’t want us to see.

We may be winning, but the war is far from over.