Tuesday, July 10, 2012
We Are Here to Help
This image is one of those unforgettable candid shots of somebody contemplating thier own insignificance on planet earth. The ocean will do that to you.
I do not consider myself to be a waterman, but I have lived a short walk from the ocean for more than three quarters of my life. The best swim I have had in a long, long time was last December. So I have come to learn a few things I thought I would pass on.
A few pods of humpbacks have recently settled in NY harbor and harbor and bottleneck dolphins have been returning, due little doubt to improving water quality in the Hudson and the closing of the National Lead plant on the Raritan. We have seen harbor seals and grey seals, but mostly when the water is cold. So the whites have little reason to hang around NJ.
The most dangerous shark in this area, and in my opinion the entire world, is the bull shark. They are the only species that swim in fresh water. They live in the surf, especially near the mouths of fresh water estuaries, where their young grow. I don't swim at certain beaches. I am never, ever in the surf near fisherman. If I see a school of silversides or alewifes - I'm usually out of the water. I never swim at night because that's when the blue sharks come in from deep water. They are really stupid - they'll hit anything.
So poor Walter Szulc, Jr. blundered around in a sea kayak, falling in several times at the same place, just before he became a professional paddler. I probably would have been amused and moved on until I saw this part of the story:
The state’s shark expert, Greg Skomal, with the Division of Marine Fisheries, viewed photographs of the shark’s fin and said, “By all indications, I think it’s a basking shark.”
Uh, yeah, OK. The Basking shark fin has a shallower gradient to the anterior margin, like the picture, but broadly-curved apex. Does the top of that dorsal fin look curved or pointed to you?
Whites aren't stupid. It was probably a young fish that was curious to see what kept thrashing around like an idiot at the same spot over and over. It also stalked the guy on the paddle board. It did not behave like a "plankton eater."
But wait! There's more! "Both spotter planes and patrol boats have been monitoring the area since the shark approached Szulc" and, "No shark activity has been observed in the Orleans area today, according to the harbormaster’s office." Do you feel better now vacationers?
Now for the coffee spitter: "Although the waters are safe to swim in, beachgoers are encouraged to stay away from seals, which are a primary food source for sharks."
The government is here to help.
You won't find me fishing off a kyak either, like this guy who on the same day had his vessel bitten by a great white - 1 3/4 inches between teeth marks and an 18 inch bite diameter.