24 October 2011

The Jaws of Life

Before the news hit this week that an American had been killed off the coast off Rottnest by a shark, it had entered my mind that the biggest challenge I am taking on here is not the training or the distance - it’s what lurks beneath!  

In speaking to people about ocean swimming, the only thing that seems to ever deter them from trying it themselves is the fear of what they could bump into or get swallowed up by!  Having been an ocean swimmer for over 5 years, I can tell you the scariest thing I have bumped into is a plastic bag or lump of drifting seaweed!  I have seen some extraordinary things but they are far from scary. 

At Brighton Pier there is a landing platform which the Icebergers use, and just underneath it there is a large Sting Ray...called Oscar!  He’s a fairly old chap and used to have a companion but sadly he died (of old age).  Oscar sits on the sea bottom and doesn’t bother any of the swimmers.  One morning last year, I was a bit late for my swim and was heading out on my own to catch up with the bunch when, from the corner of my eye, I could see a dark shadow looming towards me but pretty quickly saw that it was Oscar.  Now he’s about 5ft wide, brown and has a gentle manner.  He swam underneath me and kept pace for about 100 metres or so then went on his own merry way.  It was absolutely wonderful!  

There is nothing scary about seeing an animal in their own environment and as long as you don’t threaten them, you’re very safe.  This is a different case with some sharks, but remember, you are in their environment, so it’s important to respect that.

Although I say this, there is actually a very real fear with sharks on this Rottnest swim, as we’ve seen in the news this week.  However, I’m not willing to let fear take control and I want to take this opportunity to find out more about sharks and understand what we humans are actually scared of.

Did you know?
  • Sharks have inhabited the oceans for over 400 Million years. They are about 150 million years older than the early dinosaurs.
  • The modern sharks have not changed much in the last 60 million years.
  • Being the apex predators in the ocean, they are maintaining the biological balance in that very complex ecosystem.
  • The bigger sharks keep the numbers of other predator fish and smaller sharks at a viable level. 
  • They keep water-birds and seals at viable numbers too, who otherwise would eat too many little fish which again are food for the fish that we people need.
  • Without sharks the ecosystem will break down, not only will the reefs die the whole ocean will die as well.

Instead of killing sharks, shouldn’t we be trying to save them?  Fisheries Minister Norman Moore has issued a directive for fisheries officers to trap and kill the shark that attacked the American in a bid to protect public safety. 

Do they not see that by killing this shark, they’re putting thousands, even millions, of more people in danger?

If we humans continue to destroy this controlling factor in the ocean, we will eventually create the largest ecological disaster in the history of mankind.” (Source: http://www.sharkprotect.com)

In my bid to understand this exceptional creature, Steve and I are booking a Shark Dive Xtreme where we get to dive with sharks and rays for 30 minutes at Sydney’s Ocean World.  We’re both obviously quite nervous but ‘knowledge is understanding’ and I am on a mission to understand!

I would love to hear your comments on this – what’s your view on hunting this shark? And before I sign off here’s a question for you:

What is more dangerous to people - a shark or a wasp/bee?

1 comment:

  1. i want to do the shark dive with you! xx