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Galeophobia (the fear of sharks) is much worse at sea. Photo / 123RF
Have you ever worried about sharks attacking you in the ocean? How about a chlorinated pool in central Auckland? What about in the bath? Everyone knows the chances of being attacked by a shark
According to statisica.com, there were 73 shark attacks worldwide in 2021, nine of them fatalities. The likelihood of a human attacking a shark is much higher. We kill 100 million of their kind every year. That’s 11,000 sharks per hour, or three per second. In the shark-versus-human battle of the species, we’ll kick their ass.
Here in New Zealand, with our extensive coastline and love of water sports, we are in more danger than most. You are unlikely to be attacked by a shark in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Zambia, Zimbabwe or any of the 32 other landlocked countries on earth. More than half of America’s states have no coastline and good luck finding a shark in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh or Telangana in India. Another place where you won’t get attacked by a shark is at a suburban Kiwi swimming pool.
Those facts offer you little consolation when you’re sitting in the pool the day after you’ve watched a The Meg and Jaws double movie. You know in your heart there are no sharks in the deep end. That would be crazy. But if you can picture a shark and you’re in the water and you’re a wimp, you have everything you need to make yourself irrationally uncomfortable.
Galeophobia (the fear of sharks) is much worse at sea. I can never get sharks out of my head in the ocean. I was fishing on a friend’s boat last year, my 11 year old son was pulling a snapper out of the water when a big old 10 foot mako jumped up and bit the fish right off his line. It was an incredibly cinematic attack that scared us to death. The next day we snorkeled around Motutara Island in Whangaruru Bay. My boy asked if we were in the same water as the shark that stole its snapper the day before. I told him in a trembling voice that we were technically in the same water as all the sharks in the world. We quickly got back in the boat and headed home.
It was then that I realized that my nervousness about sharks was affecting my son’s ability to enjoy the water. Something had to be done. When the opportunity to swim with sharks in a cage presented itself last week, I jumped at the chance to say no. Then I reminded myself that my main goal in life these days is to face all my fears. So I changed my answer to a solid maybe.
That resolve was brutally tested on the morning of our death-defying jump. I opened my NZ Herald app and found the headline ‘Man narrowly survives shark attack during Shark Week stunt’. Great timing.
Luckily, the Shark Cage Adventure at Kelly Tarlton in Auckland is super safe. You’ll squeeze into a wetsuit, grab a snorkel, climb into the indoor pool with a very knowledgeable guide, and float around while large sharks and rays watch you. It’s one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever done.
Something funny happens to your perception when you are 20 cm from a giant tiger shark. They transform from terrifying monsters into big beautiful fish before your eyes. We are not their food. Sharks don’t want to eat big monkeys wrapped in black rubber. who makes The sea is full of tasty fish. Just a confused shark would be chasing us after stinky, chewy old people with all that delicious, wholesome Kia Moana swimming around.
Sharks have been around for 450 million years. They were here 90 million years before there were trees and 190 million years before dinosaurs. A full 438 million years before we appeared. Sharks give off an intense, ancient killing machine energy. They have a look that seems to snarl, “haha, pathetic human; your petty, civilized, land-based concerns have no meaning here”. to which I shouted back. “Okay mate, let’s see how well you stack up against me on land. You might have the upper hand here but if this was the K Road things would get pretty interesting for you mate.”
I faced my fears on Kelly Tarlton’s excellent Shark Cage Adventure and it worked. I was in the spa pool this morning and didn’t even think about sharks.