By now everyone on the planet including sharks knows about Shark Week. For many in the media that means propagating fear and myths that serve no one any good.
Did you know there is a data bank that keeps all kinds of statistics on shark attacks dating back to the late 1800’s? Statistics from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) no doubt creates a tidal wave of skepticism for nonbelievers, but the facts don’t lie.
Consider the following. According to one statistic, you have less than one chance in seven million of being attacked by a shark. Another puts it as high as eleven million. Your chances of drowning are about one in three million. Roughly ten people a year die from shark attacks. Fifty people a year in the United States alone die from bee stings.
No one likes to hear that their favorite vacation spot is one of the more popular sites for shark attacks so it’s hard to share this next bit of news. Not considering hot spots around the globe like Australia, South Africa, and Brazil, the epicenters for shark attacks according to the ISAF are California and parts of Florida and South Carolina.
Before throwing in your beach towel and heading to your room, remember a higher number of shark attacks doesn’t mean a high level of threats around the clock. If that were the case, no one would venture into the water. Put another way, you have a far greater chance of getting into a serious automobile accident or plane crash on your way to your favorite resort than you do of being bitten by a shark.
So what is a swimmer to do? First, throw aside the notion that sharks are amassing in huge numbers offshore waiting to devour you. That’s just not happening. Second, accept the fact that the ocean is the home of sharks, whales, tuna, jellyfish and a host of other creatures, scary or not. Finally, follow a few basic guidelines experts from around the globe pretty much agree with.
… Don’t swim near fishing piers. Fishermen and women are throwing all kinds of juicy things into the water to attract some big fish. While these tidbits might not appear on your breakfast table, they may be just the tempting morsel sharks are looking for. For the same reason, it’s a good idea to give fishermen on a beach a wide berth. Sharks get hungry like humans and may accidentally bump into you while going after that sea bass.
… Be alert to schools of fish swimming nearby. Gulls circling in large numbers over the water are often a telltale sign of a school of fish. Sharks with their sense of smell have even less trouble tracking these guys.
… Don’t swim alone. You are more or less painting a bulls eye on your body if you do. This is one instance where it really is better to follow the crowd. If a shark attack is going to happen, you don’t want to be the lone swimmer. Like wolves and other predators, sharks like to single out their victim for easy assessment and attack. Besides when you’re swimming with a crowd, a shark is less likely to confuse your thrashing for a fish or wounded dolphin or turtle.
… Your jewelry may make you look hot to your husband or boyfriend; maybe both, but to a shark you’ve just made yourself an object of curiosity that prompts a closer look. Scientists theorize the shiny reflection reminds the shark of glistening fish scales.
It’s hard to realize we are celebrating two hundred and thirty-nine years of our nation’s Independence. Call it independence, liberty, or freedom, it’s something that rings true for people across the globe whether they live in the United States, a Caribbean island, France, India, or Greece. There breathes not a human whose heart does not beat faster at the thought of freedom.
But freedom shouldn’t just be a political peg we hang our patriotism on. It’s the feeling that sweeps us away when we think of the sea or step on a ship about to carry us far beyond the sight of land. Freedom is the passion that stirred the first mariner to contemplate a place beyond the sight of land. It was that same sense of restlessness Melville confessed to when he admitted to the urge of running down the street knocking hats from the heads of civilized people on a cold November day.
Pirates have been no different. Those who plied their trade in the Caribbean during the Golden Age of Piracy nurtured that very feeling. We may think of pirates as disgruntled, rum swilling outlaws who suffered miserably under their leader, but the fact is most pirates actually enjoyed freedom. They signed Articles much like the colonists signed the Declaration of Independence. Rules, regulations, and responsibilities were clearly spelled out.
Their counterparts on a British ship had no such document. Sailors often found themselves aboard a British ship for months if not years either through force or trickery. Press gangs operating near the docks were more than eager to rob honest sailors of their freedom, and once aboard there was nothing they could do about it.
Discipline was strict, life was harsh, and whippings were common. In contrast, life on a pirate ship had the earmarks of a true democracy. Pirate captains could be voted in and out of office. Beatings and whippings could not be readily handed out at the whim of a temperamental captain.
Though life under the jolly roger was easier, it didn’t mean any and all bad-boy behavior was tolerated. Thieves were duly punished. The penalty for killing a shipmate was being tied with the corpse in their hammock and thrown overboard.
As we celebrate our own freedom, it’s good to remember the mystery of the sea has symbolized freedom for many a man and woman. What child has not stood on the shore and dreamed of far away places where he could travel. Children grow into adults and the yearning only grows deeper.
Rare is the child that asks for a toy canoe for Christmas. But sailboats abound under the tree on Christmas Day, beckoning the wonderer to untold visions of freedom and adventure. Continue reading →
Pirates have long enjoyed the notorious reputation of burying chests laden with treasure. Most of the stories are myth, but today I’m asking you, “What’s in your treasure chest? What kind of booty are you after?”
For some of us, it’s houses, cars, and fancy toys. For others adventure is the very touchstone of their soul. It’s why people travel, scuba dive, and jump out of airplanes.
For others it‘s health. Or a satisfied mind. It’s the reason both the Serenity Prayer of St. Francis and Buddhism have been so popular.
For many of us, family and friends are our greatest treasure. For others, it’s using their talents to make a difference. Van Gogh was hardly recognized in his lifetime, yet his treasure chest was chock full of good things. Sadly, only Vincent knew it.
Figuratively speaking, we’re all on the High Seas of Life, swinging our cutlasses, gleefully shouting, “Arrrgh!” Each day we set sail, striving to fill our lives with all the happiness, adventure, and contentment our pirate hearts can hold. Yet everyone’s chest has its own unique mix of treasure, and not one of us can tell another his chest is all wrong. That’s something everyone has to figure out for himself.
Once in a while, we need to drop anchor and dig through our booty. Lots of good stuff in there! But are you missing anything? A better relationship? A dream you left to wither in a shadowy corner of your soul?
Or perhaps your treasure chest has gotten filled with things that no longer work for you. Things that have become more of a burden than a joy. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself, “How does this serve me now?” Letting go of what we cling to opens our hands to new treasure.
Go ahead. Take a look inside that chest of yours before you drop off to sleep tonight. Do you like what you see? Anything missing? Time to make a few adjustments?
When you make that final voyage on the Sea of Life and the Great Mariner greets you, maybe he’ll be grinning more than you when you open your chest and show him what you’ve got.