… advice from Bob Marley which I've always held as bit of a motto. But have jumped – fairly often – nonetheless.
This week man who could swim, jumped in the water and was eaten by a shark. If that sounds flippant – apologies – but that is what happened. He was out beyond the breakers, swimming with goggles on (so, not just splashing around) and a Great White hit him. Then came back for the rest of him. So our beaches have been cleared this week. The papers trumpeting that eight Great Whites were spotted along the coast between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay on Tuesday. And much discussion as to who has more right to be in the water. Followed by the inevitable questions whether global warming was responsible.
Which, of course it isn't. The fish saw what it thought was prey. The man was out of his element and terribly, terribly vulnerable. These two things led to an encounter that could only end in tragedy.
There was a whole lot of advice in the papers as to what you should do in the event of a shark attacking you: punch it on the nose, stay calm and remain still, stick your finger in its eye, act as the aggressor … etc. C'mon folks – have you seen these things? They are as big as mini-bus taxis. And a million times more dangerous. It is also helpful to have someone else in the water with you apparently – not sure why – perhaps you point at them and say: 'Oi, leave me alone…sic him'.
When I was growing up here, there was a list of 'shark savvy tips' posted at Muizenberg and Sunrise beaches. I memorised them because I had just seen Jaws and was terrified of starring in my own Amity-isle horror:
“Do not swim out beyond the breakers into deep water.
Do not swim or surf alone.
Do not surf-cast with live bait when standing in the breakers.
Do not go in the water before dawn or after dusk.
Do not go in the water with a dog or a horse.”
The other day I was at Muizenberg, taking a walk, and I saw people doing all of the above. Now, I doubt that Great White behaviour has changed over the years. So we've been taking chances. And every now and then – Nature sees fit to remind us of that.
So what lesson can we take from this tragedy? For me it is 'apply commonsense'. If the black flag is up on a beach where there have been shark attacks in the past: take heed – the visibility is bad and the shark spotters up in the hills can't see a damn thing. Don't jump in the water. Whether you can swim or not.