there's some very confronting phone footage taken from about 20m away.
its a graphic reminder,
that we are lumps of meat.
I was reading a really interesting article interviewing shark researchers on their latest school of thought.
Generally the debate seems to be dominated by, "Sharks are evil man eaters that must be culled" and "The shark was just doing what it does, it probably mistook him for prey - like a seal." What is now becoming apparent is that neither view is strictly true, it is kind of somewhere in between.
Firstly, there is no such thing as a rogue shark specifically targeting humans or with a vendetta against humans etc. That inference is ridiculous. It has been proven to happen with lions, tigers, leopards who have got too old to hunt and humans make easy prey, so they start specifically targeting humans. But there is no evidence great white sharks display this behaviour.
However the hypothesis that they mistake us for other prey like seals is now being thought as also being false. Their eyesight has been discovered to be a bit better than had previously been thought. And they are likely more intelligent with a capacity for learning beyond what was previously thought. They can very much make the distinction that humans are different to seals (or any other prey). Also the intelligence links into their curiosity where they bite things to work out what it is.
We are clearly not their preferred prey. And hence we are well down the list of prey they would seek out. But are certainly on the menu if they were having an unsuccessful period of seeking out more suitable prey and one of us happens to find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which obviously this particular swimmer did.
It is thought then that shark attacks (the article was focusing more on Great Whites) fall into two categories. Some attacks are an exploratory bite (or two or three), trying to work out exactly what we are. Given we have no shell like a turtle to protect us, it will obviously result in serious injury or death. It appears that the shark that attempted to bite Mick Fanning off South Africa is an example of this kind of approach by a shark. And 13 YO Hannah Mighall, who got bitten on the leg several times by a large great white, while surfing off Binalong Bay in Tasmania about a decade ago. The other is where a shark is obviously just really hungry through lack of preferable prey, so is beyond being choosy. This then can lead to them opportunistically targeting a human as genuine prey, if that person finds themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. In this case the attack characteristics are quite different. They stealthily sneak up, and hit the person from no where with brute force, probably near biting them in two. There is not much recovered of the victim. Clearly the swimmer in Sydney seems to fall into this latter category.