so i hear that the second shark attack in three days occurred along the gulf coast yesterday. this time, the kid survived. three days ago in sandestin, the girl didn't make it. sad, really. but then i think about what these kids were doing when they were bitten (attacked is such a harsh word...). sandestin girl was boogey-boarding way too far offshore in water that was quite deep - prime shark hunting territory. there was an abundance of bait fish, and surprise! a nice big shark shows up to reduce their numbers a bit, sees something larger thrashing about, instinct tells it that something is injured (why else would it be splashing so much?), so it decides to go for a nice bite of the "injured" (in the shark's mind) critter. you know, see what it tastes like. so, the shark takes a nice big bite. whoa - that's not a fish. then, here comes the gallant surfer to save the girl, who does the stupidest thing possible - he splashes all around in the water to make the shark go away. hello! that's what attracted the shark to the now massively bleeding girl in the first place. so while this guy is telling the story of his "heroic" effort to save the 14 year old's life to the clustering news cameras, including how the shark just kept coming at them, and how he was splashing his hardest to make it leave, and how he finally hit the shark on the nose, which made it swim away, i was shaking my head at the lack of education of vacationers. it is rarely someone who resides year-round in a beach community that becomes victim to a shark attack. when you grow up hearing all of the news stations spouting beach safety, some of it eventually sinks in. it is absolutely tragic that the girl died, but really there was nothing anyone could do for her. she was too far from shore to stop her bleeding in time. the lesson here: don't venture too far from shore, get the hell out of deep water when you notice schools upon schools of small fish there, for god's sake, don't thrash around like a crazy person if you do see a shark, make your way slowly and calmly to shore, and if, heaven forbid, you do get bitten, bop it a good one on the snout (this is a very sensitive area), get the hell out of the water lest you attract more sharks, and fear not, 'cause it doesn't really want to eat you. it just had to take a bite first to know that for sure. the real danger is bleeding to death before you get medical attention. for this reason, stick close to the life guards, who have limited medical training but can get help to you asap.
now, on to the second attack. this kid was engaged in something even more stupid. the thing that bothers me about this one is that took place on cape san blas. 8899 cape san blas road. that's the address of st. joseph peninsula state park, where i'm doing research. yeah, that teenage boy was bitten by a shark in my territory. well, he was on the gulf side of the peninsula, and my work is on the bay side. but that doesn't change the fact that it was the same general park area. so, this 16 year old kid is at the beach, fishing with his buddies in waist-deep water, putting the bait right out there, when (duhn-duhn-duhn!) a shark bites him on the leg. and this kid lived. he was close enough to shore and lifeguards that he got help right away. his leg was amputated, but that's better than being dead. the lesson in this case: don't fish while you're standing in the surf. i can't say enough how stupid that is. not to mention that you're tossing bait out really frickin' close to shore where children are swimming, attracting all sorts of things that might be tempted to take a big juicy bite out of an inevitably splashing, thrashing child.
despite what you might think from my words here, i think that the beach is a relatively safe place for swimmers and fishermen (and fisher-women). but i don't think that the two can safely take place near each other. when the proper precautions are taken, when people are properly educated - a problem with vacationers, the beach is perfectly safe. but i don't recommend swimming when there's a shark advisory up, just as i don't recommend swimming under any red flag conditions. just a note - neither of the kids who were bitten in last few days were from florida. the girl in sandestin was from louisiana (which is technically on the gulf, but when was the last time you heard about a louisiana beach?) and the boy in port st. joe was from tennessee (can't get much more land-locked than that).
3 days ago