During World War II so little was known about shark attack that seamen and airmen who found themselves in the sea were advised to splash as much as possible to drive away any passing shark.
Now we know — or at least are reasonably sure, that such action will attract sharks because they associate it with the struggles of a wounded fish or the noise of a school of fish. Either way, a splash is very appealing to a hungry shark.
Under the circumstances it does not make sense to make too much fuss while swimming in sea water and the best way to reduce splash is to dive beneath the surface. Thus, diving is infinitely safer than swimming and it is the only form of water sport that I personally indulge in.
In Papua New Guinea I cannot help but feel my caution is unjustified. Never have I seen so many kids swimming around the many bays and lagoons without any incidence of shark attack. The sight of native men snorkling around, and over, a reef hunting shellfish and other game is common with quite often just one man working far out on the seaward edge of a reef on a making tide at dusk. Surely the worst time and place any man could choose. Yet it appears that they survive.
The haphazard, fearless way in which the coastal natives of Papua New Guinea enjoy their environment may be the courage of the ignorant, but the fact is there is very little incidence of shark attack in the country. Indeed, during one
The children seem to have no fear of shark attack as they swim out to visiting boats or play on any suitable object such as this mooring buoy. Fatalities are virtually unknown.
year, three attacks were reported but none were fatal and one did not occur in the water. It occurred as a native carried a shark over his shoulder up a beach when the shark suddenly bit him on the backside.
At one village where the kids swarmed around our vessel, yelling and splashing and in general loving life, I asked the chief if there had ever been a shark attack. He said no. Not even a shark sighted. When I asked why he thought there had been no attacks and suggested that perhaps there were no sharks in his area he replied, 'Oh no. Plenty sharks here but dey all blunt!'
Perhaps that's it. They are all blunt. But don't bet your life on it. While it seems true that the sharks of Papua New Guinea are too well fed to bother with humans, the fact is they are there in their thousands and it takes only one hungry one to kill you.
Swim by all means. The heat of the day, and sometimes the night, necessitates this. But swim with caution and try diving as a sport instead of thrashing around on the surface.
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