THE WHITE IN GREENMOUNT

GLOBAL WARMING AND SHARK ATTACKS


By Paul B. Donovan

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The Montréal Review, April 2024

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Greenmount Beach, Queensland,
Australia.

One late afternoon in September of 2020, a 46-year-old realtor made his last client calls for the day, hurriedly switching his pressed khaki pants and navy blazer for board-shorts and neoprene tunic, before paddling out through the foaming-green rollers of the Coral Sea… then waiting and watching — feeling the groundswell building up beneath him — for that magic moment when the curl is just right, changing from green to blue as it rises upwards, rounding the promontory of Point Danger. Familiar to everyone as ‘a kind, loving, bubbly spirit’, stocky and athletic, his fate was speedily settled: amid the chaos of splashing and frantic yelling at the water’s edge, as he lay bleeding out on his newly minted surfboard, his last moments of muffled consciousness were mercifully brief.

Only later was the trigonal, serrated tooth discovered, embedded deep into the pristine surfboard, like the broken-off tip of a hunting knife. The telltale residual of a Great White. If nothing else, the grisly circumstances of the attack shone a spotlight on one of the largely ignored consequences of global warming.

Greenmount Beach has several shark nets as well as baited drumlines…providing no deterrent on that unforgettable day, or perhaps worse still, creating a false sense of security. There was no stopping the Great White of September 2020! Moreover, it was 62 years since the last shark fatality — a Bull-Shark — on any of the several Gold Coast beaches. This is what so rattled the close-knit community… as well as grabbing international headlines. A ferocious, predatory attack by a massive ‘killer shark’, under postcard-perfect conditions, on one of Australia’s protected, most iconic showcase beaches.

Not surprisingly, the attack prompted a raft of media headlines. Are the attacks simply due to more people swimming, coupled with greater numbers of board-riders beyond the outer wave-break? Or maybe, an uptick in shark populations? A shift in ocean currents, bringing warmer waters closer to our beaches? A downturn in the number of seals, sea lions, whale calves, and other customary prey, so that sharks are driven to alternative food sources? Have migrating shoals of baitfish become more plentiful? What about the sonar of submarines herding the sharks into shallow waters? The list of possibilities goes on…and on, fanning ever outwards. Everyone had an opinion.

The media storm raged back and forth, most of which however, rested upon a simple, straightforward question: whatever the underlying causes, has the predatory behavior of Great White sharks upon humans escalated in the 21st century — whether on the Gold Coast in particular or across the world? Moreover, the floodgates had opened once and for all, spawning a growing consensus that ‘something needs to be done’, in place of the reactionary tradition that any publicity only ‘incites hysteria’…and harms the lucrative tourist industry. Keep quiet, confided a prominent naysayer, and let the storm blow over.

One mainstay newspaper went on the defensive however, posting a masthead, “Are There Really More Shark Attacks In Australia”. Strange how ‘Really’ ever so quietly sows the fertile seeds of doubt. The article was published, along with its pacifying message of normalcy, not long after the Greenmount tragedy — which was dismissed as an ‘unlucky’ statistical anomaly. Readers were reassured that they are not a preferred food source: black seals, why yes of course; but certainly not humans! A loftily if surprising conclusion…since Great Whites are renowned worldwide as ‘opportunistic predators’ (versus ‘intentional predators’), and certainly not haut-cuisine connoisseurs1. Great White sharks take what they can get, including basketball chunks of surfboards, and sometimes…even kayaks. Alas, such graphic accounts may be unnerving for readers, leading to hostile denials in some cases, yet the bare facts speak for themselves, brutally, not least of all for the traumatized bystanders struggling to assist victims — ‘ostrich-like’ ignorance is not a solution.

Only a few years prior to the Greenmount attack, a hundred miles southwards at Byron Bay, a woman was knocked out of her stout sea kayak by an aggressive Great White. She courageously hit back with her paddle, with the help of her husband, still in the kayak, until the shark was driven off (the woman survived, barely). Hard to believe the bright yellow kayak was mistaken for a black seal.

More important, the Greenmount news article conflated non-fatal with fatal attacks under the omnibus banner of ‘shark attacks’. In doing so, all shark species are inadvertently lumped together as if their risk potential and predatory behavior are one and the same. As every commercial shark fisherman knows, this is patently not the case.

When it comes to the so-called ‘risk quotient’, as frequently cited in the press, the news article relied upon two common miscalculations. First, combining all attacks (fatalities and non-fatalities) as if they are the same; then second, spreading that total over the last decade, an accounting process known as amortization. Some marginal businesses use this same process to hide losses, by pooling a single bad year with all the good years. The net result is a flattening of the statistical ‘average’ so that a peak in fatalities in any single year is not obvious. It didn’t wash!

Australia now has the dubious honor of being the world’s latest hotspot for shark maulings 2 in large part owing to two recent peak years for fatal attacks, almost exclusively by Great Whites. With no fatalities in 2019 and only 17 non-fatal attacks, the numbers were encouraging...then things went terribly awry. Come 2020, with 6 fatal shark attacks, 5 of which were confirmed Great Whites, while in the sixth case there were no witnesses to the attack. An infamous peak year… followed by a lull of 2 fatalities in 2021, and only 1 in 2022. A brief reprieve that didn’t last: the summer of 2023 saw the next peak year with 4 fatalities: 3 by Great Whites and 1 by Bull-shark. The benign use of ‘Averages’ may prevent ‘hysteria’ so goes the fatuous argument (thereby avoiding the mythical tourist exodus) …but a year-by-year risk analysis paints a different picture.

“Wait till you see the whites of their eyes!”, goes the battle-cry for mortal combat at close quarters. Whatever the opponent, our attention is inexorably drawn to the eyes, our instinctive, primary focus. To quote the biblical expression, ‘eyes are the window to the soul’, whether the Other is ‘full of light’, or ‘full of darkness’ (Matthew 6: 22-23). The eyes of the Great White (Carcharodon carcharias), also known as the White Pointer, are outsized and unblinking, luminous, black as coal.

Whence comes the ‘White’ and the ‘Pointer’? It’s their ‘pointed’ cone-shaped snout and streamlined, hydro-dynamic bodies, cartilaginous pectoral fins resembling the swept-back wings of a jet fighter, that are pale-colored, pale as a shroud, set against the limitless azure of the deep-blue, fathomless depths. White is what witnesses report, the identifying signature, when the shark shakes its head and body violently from side to side to secure its prey, rolling a little like a crocodile, briefly exposing its pure white underbelly.

These are indeed magnificent creatures, as they glide effortlessly, so perfectly adapted and functional, denizens of the deep-blue. Begrudgingly, we acknowledge their admirable lethality, much as we do with tigers or wolves: at once, both horrified and fascinated by such fearsome symmetry.

Yes, it’s all in the eyes. This leads back to ‘mortal combat’, and the obvious question of what to do in the case of a sudden mauling? The automatic response of most victims or rescuers is to pummel the body of the shark or its sensitive snout — to no effect whatsoever… the shark’s hide is covered with abrasive tiny teeth (denticles) like course sandpaper.

Instead, “Go for the eyes”, pressing down hard with the thumb, then twist, since eye-gouging results in a universal withdrawal response in all vertebrate animals. Any pressure exerted on the optic nerve immediately traumatizes the nearby brain and central nervous system, inducing a neuromuscular spasm which in turn, causes the shark to release its hold. Effective enough, though few Great White victims ever have a chance to use it.

There lies the mystery in a nutshell, the nub of this article. Why now, this spate of peak-year fatalities? What brings a deep-oceanic migratory shark to invade the gently sloping shallows of popular beaches around the world: resorts like Greenmount in Australia; Santa Monica Bay in California; Daytona Beach in Florida, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, or even the craggy coves and sandy beaches of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia?

Greenmount Beach,
1954

Greenmount and I go back a long way. I recall a time when the entire beach, couples and families, elders and grandchildren, swayed and gyrated to the ear-popping seductions of the Hokie-Pokie, a sanitized version of the decadent Hoochie-Cochee — itself a leftover relic from the American wartime ‘invasion’ of Australia. This was a time when the country was still largely isolated — before ‘jumbo’ 747s opened up the world to everyday travelers.

Overlooking the crescent beach is Greenmount itself, not a mountain at all, but rather a giant’s cauldron of massive black-basalt boulders, topped with a crest of green turf and ubiquitous Norfolk Island Pines. The Norfolks are living fossils, genus Araucaria, ancient relics of the Jurassic Age. At the same time, less than 1.5 million years ago, the prehistoric Megalodon Shark, growing to 17 meters (56 feet), roamed the world’s oceans. This was the granddaddy of all sharks, larger than a school bus and ancestor of today’s Great Whites (topping at a mere 6 meters or 20 feet).

Between Greenmount hill and the next headland of Point Danger with its outlying reefs, another smaller cove is tucked away. Popular today as Rainbow Bay, its appealing everyday innocence belies its original eponymous name of Shark Bay, poignant for good reason. The local Town Council authorized the makeover in 1925, in which the ominous sounding ‘Shark’ was magically transformed by a mere rubber-stamp into a benign ‘Rainbow’.

With the rise of the motorcar, sealed roads, and a burgeoning tourist industry, the city-fathers were learning about a new fanciful idea called ‘brand marketing’. The prospect of tourism spelt the demise of exotic Shark Bay, reshaped by the twin politics of public risk and consumer capitalism. The local sharks, I imagine, were not consulted about the change in their namesake.

The primitive rhythms of the Hokie-Pokie, blaring from the beachside speakers of a hodgepodge band, and its affably wacky singer, everyone joining in the fun, beat out the post-war communal spirit of goodwill and equality. Whether ‘sunbathing’ on Greenmount Beach in bare-all daring bikinis, or else hip-hugging Speedos, with lashings of coconut oil for an enviable holiday tan, there was a sense of sharing in something raw and tribal. Stripped of our workaday finery, fueled by a rustic, shirtless beach bar, awash with laughter, we found ourselves to be all one and the same. People should be valued for who they were, was the unspoken message, rather than the differences between them. If nothing else, the war was the great leveler of the class struggle, or so it seemed, judging by the enthusiastic throngs of ‘Hokie Dancers’.

On the other hand, these were also the days of rigid roles, the squeaky-clean 1950’s morality of ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘Leave It To Beaver”. The unspoken divides of gender, race, religion, not to mention sexual preference, reigned everywhere. Invisible and unchallenged, such prejudices lurked beneath the surface of a bland euphemism which declared these to be ‘the best of times’, liberated by the blood-sacrifice of war (The ‘Yellow Peril’ paranoia of Asian Communism was only just starting down that slippery slope leading to Vietnam).

Things may not have been perfect perhaps, but at least everyone had their allotted place, whether cog or titan, in the great social mechanism. During Christmas holidays at Greenmount, we children were herded together, sitting cross-legged in the sand before a portable screen that rippled in the night breeze. Using the enticement of a Roy Rogers movie and multi-flavored ‘snow-cones’, we were compelled to watch wide-eyed, an array of teeth-chattering 16mm government films on ‘moral hygiene’. Brimming with dire warnings on the need for constant vigilance, they were intended to keep our runaway minds (and hands) unsullied and chaste.

Couched in bureaucratic ambiguity, the films’ message of ‘dark forces within our bodies’, while certainly scary at the time, nevertheless fueled a morbid curiosity. We wondered what was so nefarious that it could never be clearly stated, much less exhibited on the flickering screen? Where the censor intervened, imagination and hormones took over. Not until the sexy-60’s, inspired by Woodstock and bell-bottoms, were our private thoughts liberated from the ‘hygiene’ language of a Victorian era bathroom, to become the new normality of ‘mental health’. By that stage however, it was way too late — we had already solved the mystery…and gone unrepentant, over to the dark side!

Looking back on those early years, I only have fond memories of it all: never again, have I felt so closely bonded with total strangers! Gloss or not, the equality and community of the Hokie-Pokie was gone forever, marking the end of my carefree beachside days at Greenmount. Meanwhile, the fetishism of ‘The Individual’ had arrived, driven by rampant consumerism, a composite of Freud and 5th Avenue fashion, under the salubrious banner of self-actualization. “I want to be me,” was the mantra of the new Boomer generation, “to be my True Self”. Or else, an alibi for Self-absorption?

Greenmount Beach,
1972.

The prevailing southeast winds, sweeping up the notorious Tasman Sea bringing cyclones and heavy, pounding seas, have now abated. In their place, come the inland ‘Westerlies’ from the faraway desert Outback, bone-chilling, but rightly favored as the ‘sailing season’ on account of the oily-calm seas and long, heaving swells.

I am with Bruce Harris, a hard-nosed, larger-than-life figure on the Gold Coast. After crossing the river bar at Southport, we skim along the coastline in his fast 7m catamaran, powered by water jets, the so-called ‘SharkCat’, stopping at each of several beaches. As his namesake boat implies, Bruce is also the local shark-meshing contractor, servicing the baited drumlines and changing out the stout mesh nets (200m x 6m) on a regular schedule. These nets are not intended to enclose a beach, but rather, to enmesh any wandering littoral sharks. As a Ranger with the Boating and Fisheries Patrol, I am serving a tour-of-duty as Deputy Superintendent of the Queensland Shark-Meshing Program — turning up at Bruce’s boatyard at 5 am for an unannounced spot-check inspection. It will take up most of the day.

The contract also means disentangling the carcasses, some of them still recent catches, then to be dumped several miles seawards, away from the beaches. It’s a painstaking, gruesome business. So far, the toll is one dead Bull-shark off Nobby Beach, and regrettably, a Loggerhead Turtle off Kirra. Approaching Greenmount Beach, we skirt the first net, scanning along the line of torpedo floats which provide buoyancy for the vertical wall of the net, held down at either end by sturdy Danforth anchors. All good, and then….

The second net is a different story. Several floats are submerged, the sure sign of a catch weighing them down. We pull alongside and boathook in hand, begin the arduous task of retrieving the carcass. The pungent aroma of rotting flesh fills our nostrils. Due to an unexpected southeaster, several days have passed since Bruce could make it all the way down to Greenmount at the far end of his schedule of beaches.

I pull the catch to the surface, using cleats to secure the net to the SharkCat. It’s my turn now and so it begins…the disgusting task of untangling the carcass from the net and lashing it securely to the hull. That’s when I first hear it. Unmistakable sounds unlike anything I have heard before or since, that remain forever imprinted in my memory: a mix of eerie whistles, clickings, and discordant squeaks. A universal language of distress, of crying or grieving, punctuated by the sharp exhaust of water and the rapid intake of air from a blowhole. I look up fleetingly, only to be met by the stare of two inscrutable faces looking back at me, a moment frozen in time. That’s the only way to describe how I felt about what I saw.

Two bottle nose dolphins, only a few meters away, are communicating with one another...and me. Whatever the skeptics may say sitting back in their padded club chairs, these intelligent mammals are expressing emotion, directed at me! They are not afraid, but agitated and distraught, pleading. For what? Understanding, maybe empathy? Almost at once, I feel profoundly guilty — it becomes obvious that the catch is not a shark, but rather the rotting remains of a juvenile dolphin.

To call it their ‘pup’ or ‘offspring’ creates a distance, all too conveniently, in a way that doesn’t match the sad intimacy of the situation as it unfolds before us. Hardened seaman that he is, even Bruce is moved. No, it’s their ‘child’! … I can’t prove that it was or was not, only that the implication was unmistakable to me at the time. They are mourning their loss, and considering the decay on the juvenile, they have been mounting a vigil for several days. Bruce and I struggle to disentangle the grisly carcass and secure it to the gunnel, prior to towing it seawards. The squeaking grows in pitch and poignancy, not a crescendo as such, just more urgent and a few octaves higher… heartrending just the same.

The experience of dolphins’ grieving, crying out to us, was a harrowing one. Unaccountably, something shifted within me, though at the time, I had no conscious inkling of this. I turned away from competition spearfishing, my once great love. Without giving it another thought, underwater photography became my driving passion. Cleaning out my savings, I purchased a used Bolex 16mm motion picture camera and special-ordered a 10mm wide-angle lens to compensate for the underwater refraction of light — then customized my own plexiglass camera housing. ‘Shooting’ came to mean something totally new for me, marking a different way of being in the natural world. 

Only when I look back now, can I discern the invisible aftermath of that heartfelt day off Greenmount Beach. I know it’s there, since I feel it still. ‘Dumb animals’ some call them! Otherwise, read the scientific journals, or government reports, and the euphemism is ‘bycatch’, some ‘thing’ that’s industrialized into a waste product.

While Great Whites have always been present, more as a bogeyman than reality, their pattern has now altered, bringing them closer to our shores in ever greater numbers3. This is the so-called littoral zone, normally the home territory of the non-migratory Bull shark and Tiger shark. These littoral species have led the rogues’ gallery of shark attacks in an impressive historical record. When it comes to shark-inflicted injuries, the Bull has traditionally led the rankings, followed by the Tiger, with the Great White trailing far behind. Fast-forward to the present, considering only fatalities, then this deadly ranking is inexplicably turned on its head!

The Great White leads the fatalities list by a wide margin, replete with punctured surfboards and embedded teeth. The predatory behavior of this ocean wanderer has altered, blurring our convenient separation of littoral and pelagic zones4. Once a random visitor to our shallow estuarine waters, the Great White has taken on the mantle of iconic ‘man-eater’, the standby of ‘eye-witnesses’ as well as newspaper editors greedy for attention-grabbing headlines. Experienced journalists know that ‘Great White’ speaks to a certain alarming malevolence, evoked even by the assonance of the words themselves, similar to the shock effect created by ‘serial killer’. That’s not to say the Bulls and Tigers have gone into forced retirement, pensioned off into some undersea communal home. But no: they still account for a goodly proportion of shark attacks… just not so much when it comes to fatalities!

The shark-fishing industry has for several years, reported an uptick of inshore encounters with Great Whites, though such information, while intriguing, nonetheless remained anecdotal. It’s not the quantitative ‘hard data’, demanded by empirical science. What is factual, beyond dispute, are the rising clusters of fatal attacks (peak-years) occurring sporadically over the last few decades. We humans are attuned to linearity, predictability by any other name, and ‘clusters’ throws a problematic spanner in the works, which is deeply unsettling.

The statistics beg the question, important for all surfers and Lifeguards, or anyone going on a day trip to the beach, “What’s happening out there?”

Harpswell, Maine
2020

Nothing shocks our urban composure like the stark brutality of a Great White attack, often tossing its human prey into the air like a matchstick-doll.

It’s the unexpected suddenness and massive devastation that’s so gut-wrenchingly disturbing. The precious few survivors all tell the same story: “I didn’t know what hit me. I never saw it coming”. There is none of that cautious circling and hesitant stalking common to the littoral sharks — which is why the comparable survival rate is so poor for Great White victims.

Where the prey is an active, splashing swimmer or paddling surfer, the pattern of ferocious attack behavior by Great Whites over the previous several decades is greatly at odds with conventional beliefs concerning shark attacks. Speaking with experienced divers — if only hearsay evidence — bears out the guarded behavior of the inshore (or littoral) shark species. Unlike swimmers and surfers, divers can generally see ‘what lies beneath’: occasional encounters with Bulls or Tigers are not uncommon, sometimes daily, and tend to follow a pattern. These sharks cruise past for a close-up inspection, sometimes making several slow passes, looking the diver up and down, satisfied this not an easy meal in the making, then move on (mostly!). Such littoral sharks are easily spooked by the mock-aggressive actions of an experienced diver: moving forwards and shooing away with the arms, strange as it sounds — popularized by the undersea pioneer Hans Hass 5.

It is true of course, that no two Great White attacks are the same, and circumstances may differ greatly. There is, however, a broad set of characteristics, that set this species apart from the rest. The attack when it comes, is pure blitzkrieg, usually on the surface, an unstoppable force of a ton or more, lacking all caution, slamming into its quarry like an express train.

Twenty-first century humans are unaccustomed to thinking of themselves as helpless carrion, eaten alive in a primordial world of ‘fang and claw’. There’s something uniquely elemental and instinctively repulsive about it, an ancient trauma memory locked away in our DNA. Motor vehicle accidents, though far more numerous and fatal, fully loaded with trauma and loss, don’t evoke the same archaic reflex.

Remember the suspenseful opening scene (not forgetting the heart-throbbing soundtrack) in the 1975 ‘Jaws’ movie, indelibly imprinted on the collective memory of a generation. A midnight summer’s swim at Martha’s Vineyard, just south of Cape Cod, ends with a close-up cameo of the victim’s last silent scream of terror. Prescient of what was to come in the following decades! Two hundred kilometers north, off the rocky coastline of Maine, in a morbid case of ‘Life imitating Art’, a woman is swimming with her daughter near Harpswell, laughing together, in the hot summer of 2020. 

This everyday scene changes abruptly when witnesses in nearby kayaks are shaken by bloodcurdling screams. A Great White kills the mother instantly, forever changing the small peninsula community. The once benign sea will never be the same again, tainted by the folk-memory of that shocking day. It’s notable as the first fatal shark attack in the 200 years of Maine’s recorded history.

The increased presence of seals in the area is cited by many as ‘the likely cause’ of the attack. A case of ‘mistaken identity’, as one person referred to it unashamedly, seizing on the fact that the victim was unluckily wearing a black wetsuit at the time. There remains the dangling implication of ‘poor thing, if only she hadn’t done that’. People jump to make a causal connection — ignoring the many Great White attacks worldwide in the absence of seals — as the notion of pure randomness is deeply unsettling. Naked chance is hard to swallow. A local lobsterman pipes up saying, “I always said this was going to happen — I’ve seen what’s out there…” but is howled down.

My wife is a native-born Mainer and ironically, we had seriously considered purchasing a shoreline cabin on adjacent Bailey Island only a few years previously. As occurs so often in such tragedies, we are left thinking, ‘this could have been us’. The ‘what if’ haunts us still.

There is mounting data, especially from California and South Africa, that the incursion of Great Whites into shallow littoral zones is becoming a global phenomenon. If so, this rules out those readymade explanations that invoke localized conditions such as pods of sick whales, or colonies of seals as ‘a necessary and sufficient condition’ by themselves6. On the other hand, it comes as no surprise that 2019 — immediately preceding the Harpswell and Greenmount tragedies of 2020 —was the hottest year in recorded human history, and the mercury is still rising! 2023 now holds that dubious honor. If the planet is indeed warming faster than expected7 then what about the seas…and Great White behavior off our beaches? The untimely tragedies of 2020 should not be blithely passed over, reduced to a mere statistic or dismissed as plain happenstance, only to be shorn of the deeper significance underlying their deaths.

The Great Barrier Reef,
2024

Recent scholarship8 indicates that global warming is affecting the frequency and intensity of oscillations between the El Niño (warming) and La Niña (cooling) variations in the surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean. While in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s the Humboldt Current and Gulf Stream that are similarly affected.

With the oceans occupying 71% of the earth’s surface, the global sea surface temperature has risen at the average rate of 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit per decade over the past 100 years9 ; granted, not by much… but small differences can make for big consequences. The massive coral-bleaching on the Australian Great Barrier Reef is a prime example10. Polyps are acutely temperature-sensitive, particularly the branching corals of the genus Acropora, such as table coral and staghorn coral; at the risk of crunching metaphors, Great Barrier Reef bleaching is our global “canary in the coal mine”!

Shifts in the El Niño / La Niña weather patterns bring in the deep-water sharks, providing a plausible basis for the uptick in Great White encounters. Predicting periods of high risk however, is not so straightforward. When the data of fatal shark attacks on Australian beaches are graphed for the 2013 - 2023 period, what’s immediately striking is a so-called ‘roller-coaster’ pattern of a few peak years interspersed between prolonged troughs of low fatalities. Such a pattern is known as a ‘Bimodal distribution’ which does not lend itself to an average/mean score statistic. It’s the ‘peak years’ (driven by Los Ninos and a rise in oceanic surface waters) when the Great Whites are more likely to appear off our summer shores — migratory visitors who stay for a brief while to check out the local scene, snapping up whatever they can, then move onwards. While a few may ‘stay over’ and become enmeshed, most are not caught using conventional methods.

The use of such risk management devices as mesh nets and baited drumlines are justly coming under increasing environmental scrutiny, as largely useless when it comes to Great Whites — sadly demonstrated by the Greenmount fatality. How many juvenile porpoises, turtles, and manta-rays, even dugongs, have to die as collateral damage? Alternative means are now readily available to replace the current ‘catch-and-release’ methods (which of course, always depend on whether the enmeshed dolphin or turtle is still alive). Take an example that draws upon 21st century technology, now coming into wide use as an ‘early warning’ system for swimmers and board-riders — an integrated satellite and drone surveillance system.

Capable of monitoring shark species at any specific beach within a radius of ten miles, all cartilaginous intruders are ‘digitally tagged’ for unique identification and tracked on a live database, like blips on a radar screen — surfers can then download the App to follow shark activity11. As a relic of the ‘analogue generation’, I am not a great one for the cyber-world. But in this case, I am gratified to see such digital modalities put to better use — saving lives rather than weaponized as instruments of war, unmercifully killing non-combatants. Digital monitoring of sharks can be a win-win for everyone, putting seals aside.

No longer do Humans and Great Whites need to hunt each other!

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Paul B. Donovan is a humanist writer, psychologist, and the author most recently, of “Epicurus in Love: A Novel of Mythos and Desire in Ancient Greece” (2023, The Euphorion Press). Https://www.epicurusinlove.com 

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NOTES

1 Think ‘Jaws’, the Hollywood movie, complete with Spielberg’s mechanical shark; or for the real thing, take the 1971 re-released classic, “Blue Water, White Death”.     

2 The International Shark File, University of Florida, 2024

3 Scientific Reports, 11, Article #3373, 2021

4 Woods Hole Oceanographic Center Bulletin, 2023

5 2. Hans Hass, ‘Men and Sharks’, 1954

6 National Geographic, January 2004

7 Global Climate Report, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2023        

8 Geophysical Research Letters, October 2023            

9 IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program, 2016          

10 Great Barrier Reef Foundation, 2023

11 Frontiers in Marine Science, December 2022

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