My Odd Love of Great White Sharks

Crazy People Swimming With Great White Shark

When I was just 11 years old, I saw the movie Jaws. This is because I had totally clueless parents. I had Jaws related nightmares well into my teen years. But on the positive side, it got me really interested in Great White sharks. It seems that every month or so, I go on a reading binge about these creatures. They are amazing!

Some time ago, I learned about Great Whites getting attacked by Orca. That, of course, made me love them even more. In fact, there is a famous case of a whale grabbing a very large Great White and holding it upside down in the water, making it drown. Then it and its companion ate the shark. Most interesting though, this caused the entire Great White population there to abruptly leave.

I really like this story because I’m very interested in and sympathetic toward losers. Being eaten by a shark is normal for a seal. But Great Whites are apex predators. This sort of thing is not supposed to happen to them. What’s more, it shows that the sharks are not the stupid killing machines that they are made out to be. Going along with this is the ways that Great Whites hunt different prey in different ways. In False Bay, South Africa, they hunt exclusively in the mornings when visibility is poor. In general, they ambush smaller seals and then hold them under water until they’re drowned. But for elephant seals, because they are potentially very dangerous, the sharks bite them and retreat, waiting for the seals to bleed to death.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Great Whites is that they really don’t seem to like eating humans. Most attacks from Great Whites are not fatal. Now some claim the reason for this is just that humans are usually in groups and so can help the person attacked. But given the way they attack similar sized animals, it seems that most Great White attacks on humans are simply “test-bites.” What’s more, a diet of humans would probably kill the shark. We have far too much bone and far too little fat for them to properly digest. Most attacks seem to be mistakes: people on surfboards look a lot like seals from below.

My general thinking is that I don’t mind an animal that will kill and eat me given half a chance. As long as they are as wonderfully complex as Great White sharks, I find them fascinating. Just as interesting are Hammerhead sharks. The problem is that, even though there is no recorded fatal attack of a Hammerhead on a human, they totally freak me out. I don’t like looking at pictures of them. But if I could find a website with information about them that had no pictures, I’d be totally on it. Of course they aren’t as cool as Great Whites. I mean Jaws, right?

7 thoughts on “My Odd Love of Great White Sharks

  1. The "Jaws" thing reminds me of a dumb, dumb babysitter move. One let my kid brother, maybe 8 or so, watch "Aliens" on TV. Oh, his nightmares were horrid.

    My mom got creative. She bought my brother "Aliens" action figures (this was, oh, about 1995, so the series had pretty much descended into ridiculousness, including toys) and some second-hand GI Joes. Then played with him using the GI Joes to kick alien ass.

    Very clever, very effective (no more nightmares), and probably the best use of those jingoistic GI Joe figures ever.

    Another best thing ever; John Williams’s fun score for the second half of "Jaws." (The "duh-duh, duh-duh" part is routine.) And the shot where Roy Schieder complains about scooping dead fish into the water and the giant robot shark shows up.

    For a lot of people my age (40s now), the stuff that gave us nightmares were those awful TV nuke-war movies, like "The Day After" (directed by "Star Trek II"’s Nicolas Meyer.) Although I understand the movie also gave non-preteen Reagan nightmares, too, which led to some good arms-control talks, so there’s that!

    (I still have the occasional nukewar nightmare. I should sue the estate of General Groves.)

    Sharks are cool because they’re A) scary and B) really, really ancient creatures. They’re just a living primer on how evolution works. Top of the world, Ma! No reason to change! Also, endangered now, so scary, cool, and sympathetic. From what you share, also pretty smart. But we don’t think of them as smart. Because of the eyes. They’re like a doll’s eyes . . .

  2. @JMF – That was very clever of your mother. I should be clear, all the nightmares in the world would not offset the pure joy that watching [i]Jaws[/i] was.

    I knew that Meyer directed [i]The Day After[/i], but I never saw it. I did hear that there was a discussion afterwards that featured Carl Sagan and William Buckley. I believe Sagan was saying it was even worse than shown in the film and Buckley was saying nuclear war rocks. Actually, Buckley would have said something more like, "Nuclear war is unthinkable and that’s why we need an ever increasing arsenal of them." Fucktard.

    I was dreaming about sign language using great apes last night. It annoys me that some scientists dismiss it as simple conditioning. For one thing, to some extent it is for us too. But more to the point, we just aren’t that different from other creatures. And I think that goes for animals like sharks and alligators as well. Although it is interesting to know that a 350 kg alligator has the same sized brain as a half kg squirrel.

    Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote [url=]What Quint Got Wrong about USS Indianapolis[/url]. The sharks were primarily Whitetip, not Tiger, although Quint doesn’t actually say they were Tiger; he just says that was the first one he saw was.

    Anyway, we delivered the bomb…

  3. Not insightful, intelligent, or even worth posting, but I do not understand AT ALL everyone’s love of sharks. It’s like looking into Charlie Manson’s eyes and thinking, "Cool!"

  4. @Andrea — well, for me it’s the endangered angle. Nature develops something that has its successful niche for hundreds of millions of years, we manage to wipe it out in a century or so. Typical.

    What I can’t stand are mosquitos. Any insect, in general, but mosquitos are the worst. The scientist who cups her hand in a pool of brackish water and lifts up thousands of wriggling mosquito larvae blows my mind (that would gross me out.) But I’m glad we have people who find mosquitos fascinating — somebody needs to study ’em!

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