I should not have read Close to Shore. I might be one of the few Southern Californians who love the sand and sun, but do not like to submerge myself in the ocean. Close To Shore only confirmed my fears about swimming with sea life and heightened my anxiety, as evidenced by the numerous recent shark attacks off the East Coast. This book was an interesting mix of shark facts and American history. By switching between information about great white sharks and then relaying biographical details of several prominent people in the early 1900s, the author presented a comprehensive view of 1916, the year of America’s first shark attacks.
In 1916, Americans didn’t believe that a man eating shark even existed. That was compounded by a society where bathing was just beginning to become a fad. Bathing regulations required that women be covered and wear pants no shorter than two inches above the knee, which resulted in several arrests for indecency when an arm or thigh was exposed. So when the first shark attacked Charles Vansant while standing in only three and a half feet of water near shore, none of the one lookers knew what was happening. It was hard to read that the loss of his left leg would under current medical practices be deemed a standard amputation with a high likelihood of survival. Charles’s tale became even more tragic because his father, a doctor, was present at the scene but was unable to help his son since doctors of the time were uninformed as to how to address such a wound and had very little information concerning shark bites.
Apparently great whites are very intelligent and many believe they could be trained, if only humans could get close enough. A shark will only strike once it is confident it will win the altercation. With an uncanny sense of smell and hearing, sharks need no temptation, so if you dare swim in open water, don’t swim with your dog! Shark attacks are more likely to occur when a dog is nearby because the animal makes erratic splashing noises that attract sharks such as a propeller like sound from the hind legs and irrational splashing in the front.
But the most harrowing realization came when I learned the truth about shark attacks on humans. Much to my dismay, sharks do not bite and retreat because they mistakenly attacked us or because we don’t taste good. Those are just lies we tell ourselves. Instead, several shark experts say that the reason sharks attacks on humans end with only one bite is due to our quick response and the assistance of another person to drag the victim to shore and away from the shark. Rest assured, sharks would eat us if given the opportunity.
I bombarded my husband with shark factoids the entire time I read this, and as you can see, I could go on and on. The author’s gift was turning this topic into an interesting read. I’m just grateful I didn’t read this at the beach!