Did you know that there’s a campaign by shark attack survivors to save sharks?
I can understand this in the abstract, if sharks are indeed an important part of the ocean ecosystem, although it still seems rather odd, perhaps a strange form of Stockholm Syndrome. I found the article because I was reading a friend’s magazine called “More” and saw this piece about a woman named Michelle Glenn who had survived a horrific shark attack, and who apparently is part of this movement.
I was stunned by the fact that, unlike the people who were attacked while doing recreational ocean swimming, Glenn had gone on an expedition to purposely swim with sharks and photograph them [emphasis mine]:
Michelle “Micki” Glenn wasn’t just scuba diving for fun. She and the 20 other tourists aboard Sea Dancer, a 120-foot dive boat, were on a mission: to photograph sharks off uninhabited French Cay in Turks and Caicos. They were all relaxing after the first dive of the day when someone suggested they snorkel for a while…
Drifting below the surface, Glenn was not surprised to see a seven-foot female shark just beneath her fins. [Her husband] Mike, who’d put on scuba gear, had swum deeper, taking photographs in the cathedral light that fell through the bright blue water and faded to dark purple and then black as it dropped away to the benthic deep. Five days into the trip, Glenn had become accustomed to having sharks nearby. It was one of those unconscious adaptations that we make all the time, but this was not a good one. Glenn’s emotional system had relabeled sharks—formerly something to fear—as fascinating creatures. “I love animals,” she tells me. A lifelong equestrian, Glenn says she saw the sharks as “powerful, graceful—it was like watching horses.”
Horses? As far as I know, horses don’t consider people food—although I suppose a kick in the head or other vulnerable organ from a horse can kill a person. Long ago, I had to dissect a shark in bio lab, and let me just tell you I was impressed by how unhorselike—and strangely “primitive”—it was.
From the rest of the story as presented in the article, Glenn seems like an exemplary person in many ways, and she’s certainly brave. But where does one draw the line between brave and foolhardy? I imagine that most people who do this “swimming with the sharks” bit are not attacked by a shark the way she was, but still—it just seems like a profoundly stupid thing to do.
Of course, one could say that of any risky and extreme activity. Climbing Mt. Everest, for example, probably has a higher fatality rate than swimming with sharks. And as long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s her decision (and her husband’s, who obviously approves). Were there children? Other family? Was the experience worth the risk? It certainly wouldn’t be to me.
But then, I don’t ride horses, either.