The recent shark attack in Truro, Cape Cod – the first on the Cape since the 1930′s – hit particularly close to home for me. My parents live in Truro, and I’ve been going there each summer for 20+ years at this point. Ballston Beach, where the attack actually occurred, is likely the beach that I’ve spent more time at in my life than any other.
So what contributed to the attack, which was thought to be by a great white shark? First off, far and away, is the influx of seals in the area. When I was young, we’d see seals from the beach from time to time but for the most part it was a rare and exciting event. That’s changed drastically in the past 10 years or so. I’ve been to beaches in Truro on 5-6 occasions this summer and I’ve multiple seals every single time – it’s never taken me more than a minute or two to locate one. I was recently surfing at Head of the Meadow beach, probably a couple of miles at most from Ballston, and as a wave rose up in front of me no fewer than five 400+ pound seals were within 10 or 15 feet of me. That proximity to large sea creatures, shark or not, is still a bit disconcerting when you’re in the water.
The seal population aside, the attack victim was swimming close to a quarter-mile off the beach – that’s pretty damned far out. The day was a bit overcast, and the ocean side of the Cape was particularly seaweedy this past week – all of which suggest that limited visibility could have caused the shark to mistake the victim for its usual prey.
So what’s the lesson to be learned here? Swim when there’s good visibility in the water, stay relatively close to shore, and be aware of your surroundings out there. Also, the victim did note in another interview that he felt the shark release him from its grasp when he was able to kick it with a free leg – if you are ever unfortunate enough to get grabbed, do everything you can to hit the shark any way you can.
You’ve still got an infinitely greater chance of dying in a car accident than even being involved in a shark attack. And let’s give it up for this guy – not only for his savageness in swimming that far back to shore while his leg drained of blood, but for the remarkable attitude he’s shown since.
Consider my fear officially heightened.