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"Sharkland"

Nature

One of the recurrent questions any surfer will hear is "Aren't you afraid of sharks?" I love to get that question and invariably reply, "No, I'm afraid of drunk drivers. I'm fascinated by sharks." The point being, the chances of getting nailed by a shark are infintessimally small compared to the other societal hazards. So small that I've surfed numerous breaks where shark attacks had occurred in the past, including one nicknamed "Left Overs". (It's a left break but also the site of an attack where the only sign of the body boarder who dissappeared was his board with a hefty chunk bitten off). Tempting fate? Perhaps. But we're killing them far faster than they are killing us. You can count on your hands and feet the number of fatal shark attacks per year recorded around the globe.

Of course, I imagine if I were eyeball-to-eyeball with a monster shark I'd completley freak. Those chances are small. In an equally abstract manner (turning off my little reptilian brain for a bit) I respect and love sharks. They are beautiful machines, a divine creation. In Hawaii, where I live, they are not only the top of the feeding chain but are also considered powerful demi-gods according to Native Hawaiian spiritual beliefs. While scuba diving, I've been close to relatively benign sharks (reef sharks of multiple types) but I haven't seen with my own eyes one of the larger predator sharks, like a tiger or a Great White. I chose those words carefully, because I am fairly certain I have felt the prescence of one of these creature. Maybe this sounds hokey, but you get a funny chicken-skin sensation and you know that something really big is out there and it may even be watching you. In those instances, my reptilian brain took over and I paddled in.

So, in that spirit -- of groundless fear -- I'll impart some of the more visceral reactions to this program (which I thoroughly enjoyed).

Man, those Cape Fur Seals are so toast. They should definitely look into getting a stun gun or something. You can tell they know it by the way they swim.

Tigers have the most beautiful physiques. The really subtle striping, the almost languid motion. It's totally tropical and clearly dangerous just in the evident slow power. Seeing the neck flop on a one-ton turtle in the mouth of a tiger puts it all in perspective.

Bull sharks swim 100 miles up river? Whoa! I wonder how their biology adapted to handle the transition. I wish they'd talked about that a bit more.

The footage of the dolphins herding a sardine school into a tight ball is the most amazing thing. The logistics and teamwork involved are astonishing. It does fuel the running debate of who is smarter, humans or dolphins. In some ways, clearly they are.

The cat sharks are so cute. I'd love to pet one. It sounds like they might not like that but probably couldn't hurt me very much. I wonder who their predators are. Curling up in a ball so as not to get swallowed can't be much of a defense.

I had a bunch of other thoughts but, to be honest, they got lost in the noise. A lot of new facts to digest, delivered quickly and painlessly. In Hawaii, one of the aquariums is one of the few around the world to regularly host juvenile tiger sharks. I'm going to have to get over to see that pretty soon. That and do an aquarium shark dive. I'm not really keen on the ones in the wild stirred up by chumming the waters. I understand fishing boats do it but...kinda spooky. By the way, if you are interested, here's a great link with shark info for Hawaii.

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