I’ll be spending the Fourth of July weekend down the Shore, on the beach, and for a fair amount of time, in the water. Growing up there you’re taught to respect the ocean, namely by local elders who are only too happy to school you with horror stories of those who didn’t. You hear all kinds of things, and a lot of the time I’m sure they were exaggerating, but there were some things that just came down to good old common sense. Above all, one of the first things you had to learn was to how to swim and I did, courtesy of the local Red Cross. After you had that under your belt you were forewarned to abide by these three rules:
1. Never swim alone.
2. Never swim at night.
3. Never swim with an animal.
Now, two of the three were actually pretty easy for me. I never swam alone because I never went to the beach by myself as it was too boring. When I did go, it was usually when the lifeguards were around from 10 to 5, because before ten was way too early, and by five o’clock I was usually working a summer job and being way underpaid to miss any hours. I also never swam with an animal as dogs aren’t allowed on the beach in the summer, and my horse was 35 miles inland (yes, I had one. His name was Max and he was a palomino.)
Okay, truth be told I DID swim at night a couple of times, but it usually was after the bars closed and a bunch of us would go to the beach and there was this guy who… I think you get where I’m going with this, right? In any event, the older I got the more common sense prevailed and I stopped swimming at night. Because even after the bars closed and even with all that Coors Light in me I knew to keep to the dry side of the beach because the wet side of it probably had sharks in it.
Okay, here’s the thing: sharks live in the ocean and the ocean is on the wet side of the beach. The ocean is their home, and if you walk into their home there is a random chance you could meet up with one. But just so you don’t think even dipping a toe in the ocean will set a shark to snapping at it, here’s a bit of sanity courtesy of National Geographic:
– 93% of shark attacks from 1580 to 2010 worldwide were on males.
– Surfers accounted for 50.8% of all attacks in 2010.
– Snorkelers and divers accounted for 8% of all attacks in 2010.
– Inflatable rafts/inner tubes accounted for 3% of attacks in 2010.
– Over the last half-century, there have been more unprovoked shark attacks in Florida (27 out of a total 139) between 2-3 pm than any other time of the day.
– You have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime.
– Over 17,000 people die from falls each year. That’s a 1 in 218 chance over your lifetime, compared to a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark.
– In 1996, toilets injured 43,000 Americans a year. Sharks injured 13.
– 1n 1996, buckets and pails injured almost 11,000 Americans. Sharks injured 13.
– In 1996, 2600 Americans were injured by room fresheners. Sharks injured 13. (How do you get injured by a room freshener?)
– The US averages just 19 shark attacks each year and one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, in the coastal U.S. states alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 37 people each year.
– For every human killed by a shark, humans kill approximately two million sharks.
Okay, let’s get to my side of the world There hasn’t been a fatal shark attack in New Jersey waters in more than 32,000 days. In fact, there have been only 15 confirmed, unprovoked shark attacks on humans in recorded history along the Jersey Shore. So does that mean it’s safe to strip to the skinny and take a midnight dip? Well, if you’re planning on it, think of this: the impetus for Peter Benchley’s book Jaws was based on the 1916 shark attacks that happened off the coast of New Jersey.
Will that keep me out of the water? I think not. But neither will it keep me out of the bars.
Happy Fourth of July weekend!