Shark Week

Okay, enough with the mushy stuff for a minute.


A friend of mine is counting the hours until the premiere of Shark Week.  So in honor of her obsession, I wanted to write about the week of the year that inspires, informs and scares the hell out of everyone.

According to sharkattacks.com (fun site, by the way), the first representation of a shark attack was found  on the island of Ischia, Italy.  There is a vase dated back to c.725 BCE, with an image of a man being devoured by fish similar to sharks.

They say it’s difficult to state for sure they are sharks since the word hadn’t yet been invented.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origins of the name shark are uncertain, shady if you will.  The first recording is from an exhibition from the second expedition of one Capt. John Hawkins in the 1560’s.  His seaman referred to the fish as a ‘sharke’. (www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=shark)

The meaning of a “dishonest person who preys on others” came about in 1599.  Man, the shark had a rep even back then.

In France, sharks are called ‘requin’, in Spain they are ‘tiburon’ – I guess Hyundai was hoping for a sleek and stealthy image?

Throughout history sharks have been demonized and made deities.

The Solomon Islands natives had good sharks and bad sharks.  The good sharks possessed the spirits of their ancestors, while the bad sharks just roamed about gobbling up people (thereby creating new good sharks?).

The Greeks recorded the first telling of a shark attack in 492 BCE.  Its about an unfortunate sponge fisherman, who was snacked upon while being pulled into a boat. All of him didn’t make it.

My own relationship with sharks began around 1974, the year we moved from Arizona to West Palm Beach, Florida.

We lived about 7-10 miles from the Lake Worth Pier. My younger brother would fish off that pier and see all the barracuda swimming about.  That in itself kept me out of the water near the pier, but then I started finding shark teeth on the beach.  And not all of them fossilized.

I had heard about Peter Benchley’s book Jaws and asked for it for Christmas (Judaism came into my life later).  If any of the adults in my family had actually read the novel, I seriously doubt I would have received it – if you think you know the story from the movie, think again and read the book. But receive it I did.

Being raised in a family that likes to dig for more information, I began to do more research into the nonfiction arena of sharks. The stuff I found wasn’t too encouraging at the time because many of the stories were about incidents that had occurred where? That’s right – just off the Lake Worth Pier.

My ocean days were through for the next 10 years.

I didn’t get more than ankle deep in any shore waters until I was forced to go out when getting open water certified as a SCUBA diver.  Guess where we went for that – yep, West Palm Beach.

You know, I never saw one shark.

Yoda is fascinated by all things science, so naturally he loves to learn about stuff.  He’s brought home several kid level books about sharks from the school book fairs.  They have given me a new look at the mighty ‘lord of the sea’.

Here are some of the interesting facts I have found out through his books and the websites, http://www.sharks.org.za/interesting-facts.html and http://www.sharkfacts.org:

Sharks can go up to at least 6 weeks without feeding. The record for a shark fasting was observed in an aquarium with the Swell Shark, which did not eat for 15 months.

A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.

A shark can grow a new set of teeth in a week. (Look out Tooth Fairy)

By counting the rings on the shark’s vertebrae, one is able to gauge the age of the animal.

Two-thirds of the brain of a shark is dedicated to its sense of smell.

Sharks can detect the electrical impulse emitted by a standard AA battery one mile away. (Good reason to go lithium.)

Shark pups begin their hunting and killing before they are even born by consuming their weaker siblings inside their mother’s oviduct.  (Talk about sibling rivalry!)

The Cookiecutter Shark, considered a parasite, has jaws that allow it to remove circular plugs of flesh from its victims.  Its the only shark that actually uses it’s tongue.

A shark’s tongue is called a basihyal. It has no taste buds.  Those are in the shark’s throat.

Lantern sharks can glow in the dark.

Shark teeth were used on brass knuckles, with the teeth pointing outwards on the knuckle. (Damn.)

Boat Builders in some parts of Africa rub the wood of a new craft with hammerhead oil in the belief that it will ensure fair winds and successful voyages. (Isn’t this like a lucky rabbit’s foot? Not so much good luck for the rabbit.)

Like many mammals, including humans, sharks have a large heart with four separate chambers. (Wonder if they have heart attacks?)

Experts believe that the whale shark may be capable of living up to 150 years, making it one of the longest-living creatures on Earth. (Something older than me!)

Bull Sharks have been seen swimming up the Mississippi River. (Watch out you Louisiana folk!)

The large amount of oil in the shark’s liver helps it float.

During mating, a male shark bites the female to arouse her interest. (Who knew sharks would be into S&M?)

Does my fledgling knowledge of shark facts mean I will be swimming in open ocean water again soon?  Probably not.

Will we be watching Discovery’s Shark Week?  Probably not.

Yoda is still prone to over reacting, so we might never get him back in any body of water – pool included and the family has plans for next week – its my birthday week. Hopefully, the t.v. won’t be on much.

Sharks really are fascinating creatures, scary but fascinating and truly beneficial to have around the oceans.  Some of them are getting a bad rap just because of a few aggressive misbehavers. We are after all, encroaching on their territory.

Shark people of the world rejoice in your celebration of this top of the food chain fish.  Grab your swimmies, fin hats and we’re number one Great White pointed fingers and make those ratings soar.

Enjoy your Shark Week.

Tybee Island Burn

Tonight on the drive home, aside from counting how many times John Tesh could say his own name in 40 minutes (20), I was humored to hear Rick Springfield’s song, Jesse’s Girl.  Flashbacks came from that summer it first came out.

It was 1981 and I was not quite 20, ready to take on some of my own adventures.   Recall from a previous entry that my family adventures usually end up in predicaments.

A solo drive to Tybee Island Beach was in order.  Tybee was the beach we grew up on before it became the celeb magnet it is today.

I packed up my 1968 canary yellow Triumph TR250, with its red wall tires and no speedometer to head to the beach.

Of course at that age, my idea of packing up involved a bathing suit, towel, one change of clothing and a cooler filled with iced Mello Yellow.

I had recently lost a good deal of weight and was going to be sporting a two piece suit for the first time since I was probably, oh – five.

Before I pulled out of the driveway, my mother admonished me to be careful, watch the road and not get burned.

The ride down was great.  It was the first time I had traveled any real distance in the car by myself.  My parents didn’t allow us to get driver’s licenses until we hit 17 and had taken driver’s ed. I remember feeling very accomplished.

The top was down and freedom sang in the wind. I kept with the traffic to keep an even speed.  The police tend to be attracted to bright yellow sports cars almost as much as the hello, officer red ones and my parents would have killed me if I came home with a little blue slip.

Classical music blared from the cassette deck.  How mature and sophisticated.

I didn’t even let the kids in the Statesboro McDonald’s, who so rudely asked if I was a boy or a girl get me down.  I simply opened the door of my cool sports car and pretended to be from some European country and didn’t speak English.  I peeled out of the lot laughing at my genius.

I arrived at the beach around 10am, set up my towel and cooler, stripped down to my awesome red and white two piece bathing suit and proceeded to fry myself during the four hours of most direct sunlight one is now cautioned to stay out of.

Never touched the water.  Nope.  Peter Benchley had seen to the end of my ocean swimming days in 1974.  I had a hardback first edition of Jaws and whatever my imagination didn’t fill in from the book, the movie sealed a year later, despite the fact there hadn’t been an observed shark off the coast of Georgia since 1932.

I dutifully turned over every 15 – 30 minutes and remembered to stay hydrated by downing several of the Mello Yellows.  Nineteen year olds can be rather stupid.

Jesse’s Girl played several times that afternoon on radios across the beach.  I seem to recall having a bit of a conversation with a cute guy concerning the catchy tune.  Strike one – talking to strangers on the beach, not safe.

Around 2pm, I called it quits.  I mean, there’s only so much basking one can do.  I think I had finished my book, too. I packed up my stuff, pulled on my clothes, made the requisite visit to Chu’s and the Sugar Shack and then headed into Savannah.  I wanted to stop by and visit with my grandmother before I left for home.

Mama was delighted to see me and I her.  She tried to convince me to stay the night because it was a first Saturday in Savannah.  She and my aunt (of the desert drowning incident) were going to the Riverfront to walk around and enjoy the evening’s entertainment.

I said no, that I had to get on back.  I had promised my mom not to be too late getting home.  Ah, the days before cell phones and easy access. I could have called, but it would have cost my grandmother for the long distance.

So, I bid Mama farewell and got back on the road.  It wasn’t long before I started feeling strange.  My legs seemed tender inside my jeans and I felt unusually cold.  I pulled off the highway and put the top up on the canary.

I was so distracted that I ended up taking the turn off of I16 too early.  I took the 80 exit instead of the 17.  I’d never been on 80 by myself.  I basically had no idea where I was headed, but figured if I stayed on the highway I would eventually recognize something.  Strike two – watch the road.

It was about 10 miles down the 80 highway when the real chills started.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was hot as blazes, but shivering.  My clothing was beginning to feel tight.

I was never so happy as to find out that 80 dumped right into Statesboro.  I was half way home.

The next hour or so on the road I don’t remember so well.  I do remember walking into the house, smiling that I had come full circle of my lone adventure and then seeing my mother’s face.  She seemed a bit, shall we say, perturbed.  Strike three – don’t get burned.

People, I was so red I was glowing.  You could feel the heat emanating from my body. And over the course of the next 24 hours, my extremities became so swollen that I could push my finger into my leg and the dent would stay. Blisters developed on my legs, back, chest and face.

I had second degree sunburn all over my two piece bathing suit exposed body.

My individual career as an adventurer had begun, marked by an incredibly stupid afternoon spent in the sun, a great car and a cheesy 80’s pop tune.

Life was good, painful, but good.  Jesse’s Girl will always make me smile…and wince.