A Review of… “Shark Attack! The Dangers Lurking in Australian Waters”

One of the benefits of attending college is quick access to the plethora of books in the school library. One of the benefits of attending Deakin University is the benefit of having quick access to the plethora of Marine Biology books stored at ALL of the Deakin campuses. I’ve gone to the library several times now, spending longer than I expected staring at the titles on the shelves. Do they have AA for book addiction? Because I’m pretty sure I need it…

Regardless, one of the first books that jumped out at me was “Shark Attack! The Dangers Lurking in Australian Waters” by Mike Edmonds. I have an irrational fear of sharks. As a certified SCUBA diver, I have only had the opportunity to dive in two Wisconsin lakes (at the end of October… not the warmest decision). When faced with the prospect of diving in the ocean, I’m not worried about the currents, running out of oxygen, or remembering my training… It’s the ghostly image of a great white shark that pops into my head… Probably a side-effect of growing up in Wisconsin and watching Jaws a few too many times.

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Don’t get me wrong, sharks are awesome creatures! Their senses and intellect is fascinating. I’d love to see one… I just don’t want to be in the water anywhere near one! Of the about 375 species that have been identified, only a handful are actually responsible for the attacks on humans. Even then, the attacks that do happen seem to be mostly due to human error or be random freak accidents. People jump into the water at dawn or dusk (prime shark feeding time), decide to swim in knowingly shark-occupied waters, disguise themselves as seals by donning black wet-suits, paddle out to sea on surfboards (once again looking like seals). When an attack happens, many time the shark bites and changes its mind. Remember, sharks don’t have hands. Could it be that they’re simply investigating a potential prey item?

I’ve read many of the random shark statistics. You’re more likely to get crushed by a vending machine than attacked by a shark, but still the nagging thought resides in the back of my mind. Because of it, I have a slightly morbid fascination with sharks. The more I learn about them, the more they seem to make sense. We invade their world. They’re simply following their natural instincts in order to survive. For this reason, I picked up the book.

I was curious as to how sharks would be depicted. They’re all too often portrayed as vicious killers of the deep. Judging by the cover and title, I somewhat expected just that…

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Mike Edmonds starts off the book by examining the various shark species known to be involved in attacks. He describes their basic biology and then introduces several species that may attack humans. The rest of the book is largely composed of chapters containing of stories of death and survival, all of which happened in Australia. Edmonds explains the circumstances surrounding each attack and, quite often, why the shark may have behaved in the way it did.

Despite the rather demonic looking shark on the cover, the book does a nice job of portraying the shark as an impassive predator and shows that the shark is, as I said before, simply following its natural instincts of survival. At the very end of the book, Edmonds shares several shark stories, jokes, and recipes. Interestingly, the author also points out that one might take the stance that humans are actually the predator, killing a much higher quantity of sharks every year than vise versa. It’s a quick read and rather interesting.

It did nothing to sway my trepidation at sharing the ocean with them (especially since several of the attacks happened near an area where we snorkeled for some of my field trips)… but it was interesting nonetheless. Upon my last visit to the library, I found myself drawn to another toothy book entitled, “The Shark Chronicles: A Scientist Tracks the Consummate Predator” by John A. Musick and Beverly McMillan. Supposedly, it’s about the journey this researcher and writer took in an attempt to further understand sharks and their behavior.

That book’s next on my list… but for now I have to finish “Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of the Squid” by Wendy Williams. Those of you who know me, know I have a strong fascination with cuttlefish. I picked up the book yesterday, and thanks to Warrnambool random rain downpours, have nearly finished it. Stay tuned for a review soon!

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