Here is a media release from the City of Cape Town
30 AUGUST 2011
Inshore movement of sharks: Safety for the
The City of Cape Town would once again like to remind all beach and
ocean users that we are approaching the time of year when we expect to
see a seasonal increase in the presence of white sharks in the in-shore
This seasonal change is not unique to False Bay or recent in its
occurrence. Similar behaviour is recorded in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and
Shark sightings recorded by the shark spotters have consistently shown a
seasonal peak during the period from August to March, peaking in mid-
summer. Typically shark sightings start in late August. However, shark
spotters and water users have recorded early sightings in the last two
weeks in Muizenberg, St. James and Clovelly.
White shark research trips over the weekend recorded a significant drop
in shark activity at Seal Island, indicative of the seasonal move of sharks
away from the island to the in-shore areas. The City is therefore
appealing to all beach and ocean users to be aware of these recent
sightings and the expected increase in shark presence in the in-shore
area over the summer months.
I was walking the dog on Muizenberg beach the other day when the sirens sounded and the white flag was raised. (Why white? I would have thought red would be better.) Most of the surfers and bathers left the water, but a few ignored the warning and stayed in the surf. They were fortunate they weren’t eaten.
Yesterday, a similar thing happened at Fish Hoek on the Clovelly end of the beach. Sirens, flags, but one person, Mr Michael Cohen, chose to ignore them. He wasn’t as lucky as his foolhardy fellows in Muizenberg, and he is now in the Constantiaberg Clinic with his right leg considerably shorter than the left.
I’m posting this because I simply do not understand it. Everyone knows that this coast is dangerous and has a history of shark attacks, which is why the city goes to the lengths it does to safeguard its burghers. The measures are usually effective—if the signals are heeded. It is probably some state of mind which refuses to accept mortality; these folk have the “it’ll never happen to me” mindset. I’m surprised that the man bitten yesterday was in his forties, because I had always thought that folly of this kind was the preserve of youth.
Delusions of immortality are what cause young men to obey their officers and charge an enemy machine gun; it is delusions of immortality that result in reckless driving or piloting planes into buildings.
But we are all mortal. If we all didn’t suffer such delusions at least in a limited sense, then none of us would get out of bed in the morning for fear of the dreadful things that could happen to us. So I suppose delusions of immortality have some kind of evolutionary value, even if they do lead some of us to do things that might result in our premature death.
The risk takers are of value to us as a society, even if they don’t last long. Without them we would have no astronauts, or deep-sea divers, or explorers, or formula 1 racing drivers.
Mr Cohen, who I suspect will henceforth be known as Hopalong Cohen,
was is such a person. I bet that when he emerges from the Constantiaberg Clinic, he will return to Fish Hoek beach and swim again, although he may take more notice of the shark warnings in future.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License