There have been 236 great white shark attacks on humans recorded since 1876. Oh, sorry, that’s now 237.
That statement above was a part of a lengthy June, 2008, article in the Smithsonian entitled “Forget Jaws, Now it’s . . . Brains!” which also claimed that Great White approaches to humans were mostly out of “curiosity” and that really, they’re quite friendly and intelligent.
Yesterday, a horrible and gruesome attack by a White Shark at one of Cape Town’s most popular summer beaches was witnessed by dozens of people. A Zimbabwean holiday maker was taken by the shark when he swam out into deeper waters, alone.
Sharks have infested the South African beaches, particularly those from Durban west to Cape Town, for as long as we’ve known about the beaches and sharks. My wife’s parents lived in Durban during World War II and like the 20,000 British pensioners that live there, today, frequented the beach during summer. They claimed whenever they went swimming, there were massive hemp ropes fastened to shore poles so that people attacked had a better chance of being pulled in for rescue.
A third of the world’s Great Whites live off California, another third off Cape Town, and roughly the last third off Melbourne. This is because these are areas of deep, mostly cold ocean waters, the most fecund habitat of the sea.
In the case of South Africa, the world’s coldest ocean, the Atlantic, meets the warmest ocean, the Indian, just east of the Cape. This mix of habitats makes it remarkably nutrient rich.
Great Whites don’t approach the beaches of Australia and America like they do in Cape Town. I know just north of San Francisco I often saw smaller sharks, myself while swimming and living there, but nowhere near as many as in South Africa. At Durban, one of the world’s greatest surfing beaches, there are all sorts of precautions taken against sharks: nets, sensors, paid spotters.
Sharks and South African beaches are a way of life. And the truth is that there are few attacks compared to the hundreds of thousands of swimmers on their beaches throughout the summer – right now.
But even so, I wouldn’t invite one over for dinner. Mackerels are much more conversational.