06 July 2010

FEAR: the lurking of the monsters

I keep on hearing/reading about shark attacks.
The media loves a gory story and any incident (anywhere on the globe) is reported in details designed to reinforce fear into the public.

According to some local paddlers there is always a shark lurking around us when we paddle, waiting for its chance.
Too often I hear comments about sharks when paddling in a group.... usually told by paddlers of limited skill who like to make newcomers afraid.
On occasion, I have been called a total fool for voluntarily wet exiting my kayak in "open" waters to practice rescues.
And I have lost count on how many times people have commented on my unwise choice of paddling locations like Currumbin (commonly know as "Shark Alley").

While paddling takes place in the environment of sharks, I have rarely been lucky enough to actually observe one.

Only on one occasion it was just big enough to possibly pose a threat to me.
The skeptics however tell me: it's not the one you see, it's the ones you don't...

The talk of potential attack has made me think: what is the real danger of a shark attack while sea kayaking?
While tall stories of ferocious attacks and lucky escapes from the jaws of the monster are bandied about, I wonder if the fear of the unseen is bigger than it should be.
The most common question asked by a new acquaintance (once I reveal to them that I am a sea kayaker) is:
"Aren't you afraid of the sharks?"

I often would like to play up the story of narrow escapes and portray myself as a real macho man but instead I just smile and reply:
"My fear is getting hit by a bus..."
Or that 18 wheeler careering down the road in my lane travelling the opposite direction...

To put things in perspective I would like to reproduce this comment:


Using the most recent U.S. data available, (here is) a list of unsettling threats and their far riskier counterparts.

Murders (2008) - 14, 180
Suicides (2006) - 33, 289

Children abducted by strangers (1999) - 115
Children who drown in pools (2006) - 288

Burglaries (2007 - 2.2 million
Identity thefts (2005) - 8.3 million

Shark attacks (2009) - 28
Dog bites (annual average) - 4.5 million

Americans killed by terrorist attacks around the world (2008) - 33
Americans who die from the seasonal flu (annual average) - 36,171

Deaths by allergic reaction to peanuts (annual average) - 50-100
Deaths by unintentional poisoning (2006) - 27,531

Women who die from breast cancer (2009) - 40,170
Women who die from cardiovascular disease (2006) - 432,709

Fatal airline accidents (2005) - 321
Fatal car crashes (2008) - 34,017

Americans audited by the IRS (2009) - 1.4 million
U.S. Deaths (2007) - 2.4 million

*from: "Parents under fire for letting kids cycle to school " 06JUL10
ww.ABC.net.au reader GregW commnent

NB All images (from respective authors) used under the Creative Commons license

1 comment:

  1. Quoting Tim Winton_from abc.net.au 23JUL
    -"I think Australians in particular have a peculiar, pathological feeling about sharks. It's like mother's milk, the fear and loathing of sharks," he says.
    -But Winton says Australians don't realise there are "many more sharks in our minds than in the water".
    -"And once you can see that the individual animal is something other than the cold-blooded killer that you've been taught to believe, it liberates the animal from the ignominy of being the perennial infidel, and it also liberates the human individual from their own burden of ignorance."
    Reference: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/23/2962155.htm


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