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How to understand sharks, if you want to

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POSTED: August 21, 2012 8:00 p.m.

On The Discovery Channel, it’s the 25th anniversary of “Shark Week.” Everything you’ve ever wanted to know or never cared to know about sharks is available this week on this channel.

It’s almost eerie that “Shark Week” is launched about the same time that the presidential candidates are taking off their gloves and are “chumming” the waters.

Anyway, because I’ve already learned a lot about Burmese pythons, snapping turtles, foxes in hen houses (talk about eerie parallels to politics!), possums in attics, ghosts in abandoned mental wards, degenerates in big cities and degenerates in the backwoods, as well as how to bid on storage lockers, I have watched a few of these shark shows.

Actually, I already knew enough about sharks to survive them.

I know that they are bigger than me, tougher than me, can swim faster than me and can eat me for lunch. Knowing these things is basic to the fact that I have survived sharks all my life. My rule is simple: I don’t go where they are.

Now sharks are basically unchanged for millions of years. Man is their only predator. Asians kill them by the thousands just to cut off their fins and make soup. I’ve tasted some of that soup. In my view there would be a lot more sharks alive today if very many people had the same opinion as I hold for shark fin soup. I had just as soon drink salmon juice right out of the can.

Now there has been a lot of research on sharks that I think has socially redeeming value. Sharks don’t get cancer or have heart disease. So I suppose there may be something going on in those beasts that could help cancer and stroke research in humans. But by the same token, sharks don’t smoke. I’m just guessing the researchers have factored this into their data.

A particular statistic jumped out at me. Only about five people a year in the entire world die from shark attacks. And none of them occur on land. More to the point, more people die from hotdogs than sharks.

One of the most interesting segments I’ve seen this week has to do with the “megalodon.”

That was a prehistoric shark with a mouth that was 8 feet wide and opened 6 feet deep. It had teeth the size of a shovel.

The megalodon lived several million years ago, or to put this into perspective for my fundamentalist friends, just before Columbus discovered America.

Paleontologists have dug up megalodon skeletons in various parts of the world to corroborate both scientific and Biblical notations that the earth was once covered in water.

My friend, the late Leon Cooper, gave me a petrified fish vertebrae he found on his property on the headwaters of the Ochlocknee River just outside of Moultrie. Experts told Leon that the fish would have been some 8 to 9 feet in length. Who knows what the rest of that fish looked like. It might have been a small shark or a very large bass. I sit in my office and hold it in my hand and realize what a small speck I am in the big picture.

Last night I watched “Myth Busters” and they debunked that scene in “Jaws” where Chief Brody killed the great white shark by shooting an air tank that “Mr. Hooper” had shoved into the creature’s mouth. In the movie, the tank exploded. In real life, Myth Busters proved that it would only have jettisoned. It might have injured the shark, but it would not have blown it to bits. That’s called poetic license or simply, “Hollywood.”

So on that list of things to do to defend yourself against a shark, scratch off the air tank thing.

And that old advice about hitting a shark on the nose with your fist, well that only serves to identify what part of your body it will eat first.

My resolve remains intact. I just won’t go where they are.

Dwain Walden is the editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer.

 

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