Of Sharks and Fear
Two Teens Attacked by Shark(s)
Recently, two teenagers were attacked by a shark, or two different sharks, at a beach near me. In fact, it made national news. I believe one lost an limb or part of a limb. Both were taken to the hospital. Several hours before the incident, I went for a swim in the ocean at Topsail Beach near Surf City, NC (60 miles to the North). However, my wife and other beach goers that morning claimed to have seen a shark near the location where I was swimming. Here’s the thing I’m trying to say: She saw the shark and told me about it BEFORE I went swimming.
So if there’s a shark in the water, why would I go into its territory knowing full well that I could be mistaken for a piece of food?
Isn’t Fear Supposed to Protect Us?
Why didn’t I fear it? Probably because there were several other people out there already. Or maybe it was because I naively thought that it would know I meant it no harm. Crazy, right? Then four hours later, on a beach 60 miles to the South, two kids get maimed by sharks. They had no intention of harming a shark, yet they were attacked. Then, as if my sanity were in question, the following Monday, Mike and I went swimming in Bank’s Channel. We even talked about the shark events before getting into the water. Now I know I’m crazy!
I’m a student of science… sort of. I studied statistics and I understand that probabilities can be informative and helpful: Especially if they already agree with my preconceived notions :-). I bring this up because I want to enter the Malibu Triathlon in Malibu California. But my wife (the other LG) doesn’t want me to do it, because she’s afraid that I’ll get attacked by a shark. I can’t blame her. On the other hand, there’s a greater probability that I’ll get killed by a vending machine than by a shark. At least that’s what several web sites say. All you have to do is Google “shark vs. vending machine.” Of course, that’s all a bunch of crap because the numbers are averaged over entire populations which include people who can’t possibly be attacked by a shark but are very likely to get angry at a vending machine and knock it around until it falls on them. This might include people who live in the middle of the country and may see the ocean three times in their lives. If the entire U.S. population lived within 100 miles of coastline, I’m sure shark incidents would be more prevalent than vending machine incidents. Also, the population density would be very uncomfortable and Canadians would stream across the unchecked boarders. Don’t get me wrong, I love Canada.
So I’m left with the question, “Should I be more cautious about swimming in the ocean or even the channel?” I don’t know how to answer that. But I am confident that I would be safe in the Malibu Triathlon only because I want to do that race really, REALLY badly.