When we first began talking about moving to Hawaii, a topic that never really came up was the shark. Sharks that bite your arms off. Sharks that take chunks out of your legs. Eat you whole sharks. Sharks that come right up close to shore and attack you while you’re padding around in the water, minding your own business. Toss in a few episodes of Shark Week on the Discovery channel and combine that with, what seems to be, a growing number of shark attacks and bites in the Hawaiian island and you get galeophobia. The (excessive) fear of sharks.
Excessive and persistent fear of sharks is termed galeophobia. Sufferers from this phobia experience anxiety even though they may be safe on a boat or in an aquarium or on a beach. Hollywood films depicting sharks as calculating, vengeful diabolical monsters have no doubt enkindled the fear of sharks in many persons. So have validated reports of sharks venturing into rivers and lakes.
Apparently I too suffer from galeophobia. Shortly after we moved to Kauai, someone was bit in Maui. Then another tourist had her arm removed and later died from her wounds. Then there was a dude on one of the island who was bitten. And so on and so forth. Granted, these all happened on other islands but it’s not like we’re talking about Australia. I seriously doubt Bob the Shark woke up one day and decided, just for the heck of it, to swim from Australia to his chosen Hawaiian island to grab a quick bite. In terms of the entire ocean, Oahu is just a stone’s throw from Kauai and there have been plenty of attacks there — as well as attacks on Kauai in the past year.
And then, just a few days ago, the news broke about a guy who’d been surfing at the North Shore (Hanalei) on Kauai and how a decent sized tiger shark attempted to make him an afternoon snack. Thankfully, he was able to literally fight the shark off (seriously he ended up on the shark’s back and punched it in the eye) and escaped with minor scratches and nice souvenir – the bite mark of the shark on his surfboard.
So, it’s little wonder that between that sensationalist Shark Week and all the reading about sharks in the islands, I am now terrified to enter the water. Even up to my knees! I made the huge mistake of goggling shark attack videos (trust me, don’t go there.. not if there is even the remotest chance that you too will develop an unhealthy phobia) and saw a few where the attack took place within a few *yards* from shore. Not dozens of yards – not way out there in the “are you insane?!” depths, but the shoreline. Where little kids play and adults who are scared of sharks think they’ll be safe.
The end result of this? I haven’t been in the water in nearly 4 months. It’s gotten ridiculous. So this coming Sunday, I’m going to tackle this once and for all and the hubby and I are going to take a hike and then hit the beach for some time in the waves. What are the chances that Bob’s family member will be there in 2 feet of water, waiting for me to step in so they can have an autumn feast? Obviously slim to, hopefully, none.
Of course, I could be wrong and maybe the hubby can get a picture of me as I’m carried away in the mouth of Jaws…
Just in case you’re interested, here are some news articles about recent shark attacks as well as one of the most infamous attack survivors – Bethany Hamilton. (It’s reading about her and how she got back into the water mere weeks after she lost her arm that makes me feel small and stupid. And sadly pathetic…)
featured photo (dorsal fin) photo credit: Dan Callister images