Fear turns to fascination

Published 9:54 am Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thanks to Discovery’s annual “Shark Week”, I am officially mesmerized and terrified of the Great White Shark.

I grew up in upstate New York playing on the shores of Lake Ontario, one of the five Great Lakes.

There, I never had to worry about sharks or other predators that roam the ocean floors. In fact, my greatest fear while swimming in Lake Ontario was getting tangled up in seaweed or an undertow.

However, now that I’ve traded my time on the shores of Lake Ontario for some on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the ocean has opened a larger swimming risk in the form of sharks.

There was a time I couldn’t even look at a shark. The very sight of one on television or in books made me squeamish. Let’s face it, they’re not exactly lookers with their pointed snouts and jagged, seemingly continuous, rows of teeth. Not to mention that little ol’ movie “Jaws”…striking fear into the hearts of every one of its viewers. And as for, “Shark Week,”–fahgettaboudit—I was never going to watch it.

I’ve taken that approach with sharks for many years, but for some reason, this year I changed my view on them. This year, when “Shark Week” rolled around I was a little curious. So I started watching the series of programs on Sunday and that’s when the fascination began.

I’m not sure what it was, perhaps it was the shark aerobatics off the Africa’s eastern coast, but I’m legitimately now a shark nerd.

While watching about a program about Great White Sharks I realized they deserve respect just like any other animal that inhabits planet Earth. As horrifying as the stories of these large sharks’ attacks on humans were, I understood the ever present thin line between their world and ours.

While watching about Great White Sharks I learned the following interesting facts:

Great White sharks live along the coasts of all continents except Antarctica.

Not all White Sharks are all white. The shark’s back may be dark blue, gray, brown or black.

The Great White Shark lives for about 25 years.

A Great White Shark is capable of eating sea lions whole.

Scientists estimate that after a big meal, a Great White Shark can last up to three months before needing another one.

The biggest Great White Shark ever caught was off Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 1993. It was 20 feet long.

More than 70 percent of known victims of Great White Shark attacks survive because the shark realizes it has made a mistake and doesn’t finish off the prey.

Great White Sharks are no match for Orcas (Killer Whales) in a fight. Orcas sometimes hunt in packs plus they are too fast and strong for even the biggest Great Whites. Orcas have been known to kill and eat them as well.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.