Ringing the Dinner Bell

Sharks are beautiful and elegant, and yet many, with layers of teeth bigger than your biggest toe, are completely able to bite through you and rip you to shreds.

To date there are around 500 documented species of shark, ranging from the Tiger Shark, to the Hammerhead and never forgetting the ominous Great White. Though, of course, other species are almost certainly swimming swiftly around the oceans undiscovered.

It is true that Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws, and Spielberg’s screen adaption of the same name, emphasise and perhaps even demonise a shark’s killer instinct and killing abilities. And so those rows of teeth are probably sensationalised to make an interesting book and a gripping film. However, regardless of this accusation, those teeth are still capable of killing in the manner that these works of ink and film depict.


Jaws 1975

Those two notes, speeding steadily in tempo, may well have created a petrifying villain, but nevertheless shark attacks occur all to often near to the shore.

Right next to the beach.

Even those gliding through the deep darkness that is the ocean, are often pulled into shallower waters to feed.

The Sharktrust.org documents the ‘most common shark incidents’ as the ‘hit and run’:

‘These typically occur in the surf zone, primarily involving swimmers and surfers’.

Describing the human appearance as ‘provocative’, the same website explains that this as well as ‘activities associated with aquatic recreation’ lead to the confusion of sharks, which in turn leads to attacks. Now these encounters may well be viewed as ‘accidental’ from the shark’s perspective, but to any swimmer or surfer it can prove to be fatal.

And so, although sensationalism is equated with Jaws, the explanatory plead aimed at Amity Town’s Mayor by Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is accurate in many ways:

“A Shark is attracted to the exact kind of splashing and activity that occurs when every human being’s going swimming, you cannot avoid it!”

Jaws Amity

I find sharks fascinating. Classified as fish, they are potentially as old if not older than the dinosaur. Able to constantly replace falling teeth from the rows of plenty, based upon a detachable jaw, the boneless mass of cartilage is covered in skin thick enough to protect everything vital. Able to track prey based on a heartbeat, or smell a miniscule amount of blood touching the water, a shark can even roll it’s eyes backwards in order to avoid debris disturbing a feeding session.

Having been obsessed with sharks from a young age, with their inability to swim backwards and yet an ability to camouflage at will, the speech made by Jaws‘ Hooper, once again, really hit home:

“What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks. And that’s all”.

And so SHARKS…Perhaps sinister, almost definitely dangerous yes, also intelligent and incredible… but far too close to the beach.


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