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Shark AttacksShark cruising by

What are Your chances of being Killed by a Shark?

Every now-and-then there is another shocking news report of someone meeting their untimely death, killed by a shark. It hits the headlines. Tragic, of course. But then again it's also tragic if someone dies falling off a roof, or in a motor accident, or of hypoglycaemia.

Somehow, though, the shark attack is what makes the news. Maybe it is that people have an innate fear of being eaten by a big fish. Somehow, a person may feel it could have been them, and that they'd have been helpless to do anything about this sinister mode of death that lurks, whereas in contrast, people don't imagine they'll die of failing to spot the oncoming traffic on the road, or of electrocution because some cable was live when they imagined it wasn't.Shark approaching

Some fairly reliable sources of statistics claim that the number of deaths attributable to shark attacks is about 15 per year worldwide. Compare this with the fact that in Australia alone, one year, 31 people died of electrocution because they watered their christmas trees when the christmas lights were powered up, and in the UK it is typical for the death toll on the roads to be able three thousand per year. But leaving all that aside, let's look at how you might be able to save yourself from death through shark attack. Here are some facts which might help:

* Sharks do not like to eat humans. Seriously, they don't. Humans are too bony and there's not enough meat on them. If a shark bites a human it's usually because the shark has mistaken them for a seal or a turtle, or because they wonder what they've found and feel like taking a nibble to test it.

* Time of day is important. Yet, oddly, this information is often missing on the gory news reports. I have heard that in those rare cases where a shark attacks a person, it's almost always in the early morning or at dusk. Maybe twilight is something that confuses the shark into attacking something it would rather not.

* Some species of sharks do not eat meat. Amazing as it may seem, not all species of shark are carnivorous. Some are, and some are not. They don't need to be all lumped-together.

* Sharks that eat meat prefer to catch animals that they assume are helplessly splashing about. For this reason, underwater divers are less at risk than surface swimmers.

* Sharks are not the most intellectually brilliant of marine life, and they live by their instincts. Unfortunately, their instincts can be dazzled and confused in some situations. If someone dumps some dead animals into the sea, sharks can get bamboozled and start taking a bite out of anything that moves. They get into a frenzy, like a dog that someone has got wound-up.

* You can get Shark Repellent! Although this is the sort of thing used by Batman, it is a practically distillable substance, and easier to get than car insurance for a car that has fire coming out of the exhausts. (Sharks have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and there is something they can't abide, and that is... the smell of rotting dead shark. So, the theory goes, if you get some dead shark and let it rot so it stinks really well, it should be possible to prepare some rub-it-on stuff which keeps sharks away, miles away in fact). I kid you not. It's like saving yourself from tigers. Strange, but true.

I have rotted a shark, and I can tell you it smells quite bad. At the time I had no live sharks to test it on to see if they were repelled by the stinking rotting dead shark. However, it repelled the laboratory cleaners, who threatened to go on strike unless the offending bad fish were removed.

* Sharks do not go gnashing at anything regardless. As far as I can tell, they are as fussy as most fish when being tempted by bait. In fishing, there is much discussion about how best to attract fish. Different lures and visual devices as well as smells are considered. However, in contrast, if you want to deter fish from taking the bait, there may be visual clues which you can give which put off sharks. In tropical places, some tiny frogs have evolved to have bright colour schemes which help them to avoid being eaten by predators. It may be found at some time that if you wear a swimming outfit with bright colours or shocking patterns such as stripes, etc, then sharks may be warned to keep well away. Manufacturers of divers' wetsuits may find by experiment that some patterns and systems of pigmentation are good for this. Experiments could be performed without humans having to take unreasonable risks. Imagine at a public aquarium, at around shark feeding time, food arrives but it's inside a crash-test dummy dressed in a garish wetsuit, the sharks might be put off their dinner. It will be interesting to observe the underwater equipment suppliers to see if they have any kit that's been found to put off sharks.

Yes, I took those pictures myself. Where? In Central London!

Now the follow-up: Risk from Coconuts! How it compares.