Day 47: 08/11/13: 12 Random Shark Facts

Thanks to Randomhistory.com for these fascinating fragments:

1.  Even though almost equal numbers of men and women spend time in the ocean, no one knows why sharks seem to prefer to attack men. In fact, nearly 90% of shark attacks have happened to men.

2. Hammerhead sharks’ heads are soft at birth so they won’t jam the mothers’ birth canals.

3. The first pup to hatch inside the sand tiger shark mother devours its brothers and sisters until there are only two pups left, one on each side of the womb. This form of cannibalism is called oophagy.

4. Sharks belong to a group of fish known as the elasmobranchs, or cartilaginous fishes. Rays and skates, which may have evolved from sharks, also belong to this group.

5. Recent research indicates that when a shark plies surface waters (when the dorsal fin cuts through the sea’s surface), it could be detecting pressure waves associated with a struggling animal nearby.

6. In 1977, Happy Days’ Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli jumped over a penned-in shark while on water skis, giving birth to the expression “jumping the shark” to describe a desperate dramatic measure by a TV show.

7. For every human killed by a shark, humans kill two million sharks.

8. Solomon Islanders believed that when people died, their ghosts inhabited the bodies of sharks.

9. The second-most dangerous shark in the world, the tiger shark, is sometimes called the “garbage can of the sea” because it will eat anything, including animal carcasses, tin cans, car tires, and other garbage. One was even found having a chicken coop with the remains of bones and feathers inside its stomach.

10. When a shark eats food that it can’t digest (like a turtle shell or tin can), it can vomit by thrusting its stomach out its mouth then pulling it back in.

11. The first written account of a shark attack is found in Herodotus’ (c. 484–425 B.C.) description of hordes of “monsters” devouring the shipwrecked sailors of the Persian fleet.

12. Dreaming has been observed in bony fish, but not yet in sharks.

Until I read that last fact, I never considered the title of this blog from the perspective of dreaming sharks.

And so, in yet another effort to overcome this innate self-centeredness, I joined The San Diego Shark Protectorate, a meetup group devoted to shark conservation.

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Day 46: 8/10/13: “Life is a Great Surprise”

The title is a quote from the great Vladimir Nabokov. I always think of Nabokov’s words when I have a particularly lovely experience. Today I went on a hike led by my friend Dan, an intrepid urban explorer. These hikes are always a surprise, as Dan has mapped so many forgotten and unseen places—odd urban pathways between hotels, a gorgeous park that smells of mountain sage hidden in the middle of a desolate nameless neighborhood between downtown L.A. and Echo Park. Exploring the unknown heightens the beauty of the familiar city places:  the gorgeous Victorians of Angelino Heights, the lotuses and lilies of the reborn Echo Park Lake.

I met so many bright, interesting people on the hike–professors of Latin and Math, a fellow English instructor and a guy who told me about rescuing a small blue shark from a reactionary mob of Santa Monica bathers during the height of “Jaws” mania/paranoia. Even though the poor shark was only about three-foot long, the hysterical swimmers and even the lifeguards were ready to beat the creature to death when it beached itself until this kind man set the shark free again in the ocean.

This anecdote is a nice transition to the benefit–using “Jaws” as a tool to save sharks rather than argument for their destruction. In Elysian Park, Dan introduced me to the hikers and I gave a brief little spiel about the JAWS benefit for Sharksavers.

Talking about my shark project, I always try to balance the humor with the dire truth about shark extinction, which is sort of tricky. While I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news,  we tend to forget that we are  living through a mass extinction event. As  Derrick Jensen once wrote, “there is no roll call on the nightly news” for the 200 plants and animals that disappear from this planet every day.

But this entry was about joy. Surprise.

I usually write about “forgetting” in the context of human denial and selective memory. But I’m just as guilty of picking and choosing.

It’s easy to remember the angry mob on the beach and forget the solitary guy who saved the little shark.