It’s been a good story for newspapers over the years. Shark attacks. Far more of them were occurring in the 1930’s – obviously when the Australian populated coast had better stocks of seafood to attract and feed the predators.
Looking at a small sample of shark attacks in newspaper files indicates how these tragedies gave been forgotten. There has been, seemingly hundreds of shark attacks around our coast – more than what is commonly stated.
Here is a sample from the archives from pages 10 and 11 – it could form a good university study in changing journalism standards over the years.
TODAY TONIGHT interviewed Ben Cropp and I for their version of events which began with “a pack of sharks attacked” (corrected at the end).
When a nine foot tiger or lemon shark bit into the inflatable boat of Ben Cropp and myself it made news for a few days on the east coast and New Zealand.
The filming team escaped with a ruined boat and some still pictures, but no injuries.
We were: 1. following a shark 2. in a red boat 3. with dog aboard. Three dont’s if you wish to avoid a shark turning nasty on you – eventually.
The incident raises a serious doubt as to the effectiveness of inflatable lifeboats. OK in the short term, but dangerous in a case of a long delay in rescue.
Avoid red also, a proven color which attracts sharks faster than other colors, we believe.
All lifeboats would therefore be advised to carry a hand spear and a power head for protection. Of course this message will fall on deaf ears. We feel some pity for the yachtsmen and women who will vanish each few seasons, like clockwork, into The Coral Sea somewhere between Australia and New Caledonia. Beyond New Cal it doesn’t make the news in Australia.
Close to a coral reef and their main worry will be grey reef whalers. Tiger sharks may watch a lifeboat for hours before doing anything. Eventually they will do something. Hope this isn’t in the dark.
This is a true warning.
Fiction: Satire from fathomOZ.com A recent attack by a starving shark on an inflatable dinghy was a grim reminder they enjoy the roughage offered by rubber. Some called this a CRAZY SHARK but ‘it knew’ that roughage is necessary in every diet. (ha ha)
Modern observers have recorded this species to be sluggish at times. Every creature is docile when it has a full mouth. Getting to have that full mouth can involve a very different situation.
When feeding upon large meals the shark is so focused upon not damaging it’s teeth it can forget where it is and will therefore tolerate others holding onto it’s body, patting it’s head and so on. This does not mean the shark would not eat them if they were the only food in the sea, it simply means it is thinking about what to swallow next.
We can be thankful sport fishermen, long-line fishing boats and shark-fining enterprises have greatly reduced their numbers as it is one of the most dreadful sea creatures on the planet.
Feeding mostly by twilight the tiger shark has been blamed for the disappearance of many divers and swimmers who have possibly drowned during the day, but not always. This shark has a very wide mouth capable of making a complete meal of a swimmer with a few bites.
Natural food are stingrays found sleeping on the sandy floor of tropical reef lagoons.
Captured tiger sharks often have many broken-off stingray spines embedded within their mouth which has caused the shark incredible and maddening pain.
The maddened shark will attack anything and everything that swims in a vain attempt to eliminate pain by creating additional pain; (in much the same way we scratch and itch to prevent the itch spot itching).
With tiger sharks that ‘itch’ is a mouthful of agonizing and venomous barbs causing the worst pain known. Yet overlooked by Quentin Tarantino movies to date, but was considered during the writing of Reservoir Dogs as a substitute to the ear-cutting scene.
For the shark in pain, their temporary relief comes only through killing everything in sight. They will charge through schools of marine life snapping wildly and thereby increasing the already high level of heavy metal poisoning in their brain even further.
(The mercury in swordfish and marlin would have already sent them slightly mad).
The only true defense against a tiger shark charging a diver with mouth open wide is: the TS defense stick .
With the mouth open wide the diver inserts the rod into the shark’s mouth thereby preventing it’s closure.
This will kill the shark in time and it can never close it’s mouth or feed again. Other sharks see what has happened so the procedure will only require repeating a few times before these sharks get the message at any dive site on the Great Barrier Reef and avoid divers completely.
Footnote: This tongue-in-cheek report was an attempt at underwater humor and should not be confused with the real thing. A true report on the shark-dinghy episode exists in our ARCHIVES.
Doug had a dive shop at Kingscliffe and then Tweed Heads in northern New SOuth Wales when I first knew him.
This picture was Doug at Cairns a few years later. He’d bought a charter boat and was doing well with dive trips.
Spearfishing alone one afternoon out from Cairns, he failed to return. They found his lead belt, maybe with shark teeth marks and his speargun – nothing else. We have recently learned Doug Smith was spear fishing in very hostile waters that fateful day.
Doug Smith had a bad habit of spear fishing on scuba and carrying the catch inside his wetsuit. (Peter Bristow, charter boat skipper).
“I fished exactly where Doug Smith disappeared and caught eleven tiger sharks (all) over 13 feet in length and within a week of Doug’s disappearance at Pellowe Reef”. (from \Shark Man\ by Vic Hislop).
The first tiger shark caught by Vic was a 14 footer. Within minutes it was bitten in halves by an even larger tiger shark about 17 feet long. Water depth only 25 feet and 30 meters from the edge of the reef.