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PAST ISSUES
Shark week: Darwinism at its best

A slow news cycle and a cluster of shark attacks have created a media frenzy on the North Carolina coast. Disaster awaits.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I am making light of the young victims in May who lost limbs or the terrible wounds faced by other swimmers as recently as this week, don't. Those events were awful, life-altering attacks.

What is of more concern is what the media and people are doing.

I've often said in this space that no news is news east of Raleigh unless a man bites a dog. That is to say, no media outlets care much about this part of the world unless some freaky thing happens. Usually, this means an event involving alcohol, drugs or just seriously dumb people -- and the last words -- "hey, watch this" or "how about hold my beer?"

For now, it is shark bites man.

Everyone is thinking it, but no one wants to say it, so I'm out with it: at this point, the media may be onto something.

The first couple of shark attacks would seem to be random, bad-luck moments. However, when these attacks are taking place in roughly the same place, and about eight of them occur in less than a month, it would seem that a person of average intelligence would notice a pattern and do whatever possible to avoid being part of news items number nine and ten.

One of the attack reports was almost comical, and I'm not even sure it would have been believable had the man not had severe injuries. He said he was yelling at people to get out of the water and run from the shark who was attacking him, while he punched the shark in the head "in a manner that would have been hard for [the shark] to hang on." You just don't hear that many stories about people who have fistfights with sharks.

Lots of reasons are given as to why there are more sharks in the water. Global warming, of course, has caused warmer waters. Drought conditions have allowed less freshwater to make it to the ocean, increasing salinity and drawing more fish (bait) closer to the shore, which in turn draws more sharks (sharks) to the shore. However, the most compelling image I saw was that a person or child on a surf or boogie board paddling has a silhouette that looks a lot like a tasty sea animal to a shark deep in the water.

Experts assure that while human population is at an all-time high, shark population is at an all-time low. Much like getting struck by lightning, a shark attack is a rare occurrence; however, like lightning, it only takes one strike to do serious damage.

As for humans, they aren't doing much to avoid attacks. It's a banner year for North Carolina beaches. And, while you'd think town officials would at least close some areas for a day or two where many of the attacks are happening, you'd be wrong. Some towns are instead using helicopters to monitor the water.

Of course, you find many people like we did on our trip to the beach. When a thunderstorm rolled up, many beachgoers stuck around to watch. More than a few came up to the hotel, which had obviously closed the pool, and were confused and frustrated that the pool was closed AFTER THEY'D FLED THE BEACH DUE TO LIGHTNING. Hotel employees, as well as my family, just stared at them.

Most had accents unlike ours. You can draw your own conclusions.

And my advice is to confine your encounters to Shark Week on TV. Or better yet, movies like "Jaws" or "Sharknado."


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