The media is awash with reports about a recent shark attack in Cape Cod. On Sunday evening, after watching footage on the local news of an 18-foot great white swimming around at the beach closest to our house, my wife decided that she wanted to discuss water photography.
Specifically, she wanted to discuss any future plans that I might have to (in her words) "dress up like a seal and swim around among the sharks." We have had this discussion before. Actually we have it pretty much every time she sees video of a great white shark a couple miles from our house on TV. It doesn't matter whether it's the local news or the Discovery Channel, a 6-foot shark or 20-foot beast.
In hopes of ending our talks as soon as possible, I break into a series of well-rehearsed statistics, "facts" about sharks -- some half-truths, and a few outright lies. "No one has been killed by a shark in Massachusetts since 1936," I say, or something like, "Sharks eat 800-pound seals, not swimmers," "The only sharks around here are little blue sharks," "I'm more worried about being bitten by a lobster than a shark," and my favorite, "I don't think the sharks like breaking waves."
She's far too smart to buy any of my crap, but she usually gives up soon after realizing she isn't getting anywhere. So far this approach has helped me avoid dealing with the recent fact that there are now huge great white sharks feeding in our local waters, and spending so much time swimming around taking photos for the rates surf magazines pay might not make a lot of sense.
On Sunday, more than usual, I wanted no part of our discussion. I remember mentioning that the media was "shark crazy" and asked if we could table our chat because the ocean had been flat for two months, Monday's forecast was for continued flatness, and without waves, both surfers and water photographers were fairly safe.
As it turns out, Monday wasn't completely flat. There were bumpy knee-to-waist-high waves, which were not worth changing any plans for, but they would have made for a fun day at the beach.
Or so Christopher Myers thought. Myers, a Denver man, found himself bodysurfing with his teenage son at an offshore sandbar at Ballston Beach in Truro, Mass., Monday afternoon, and several eyewitnesses reported seeing a large fin appear between the two men and thrash to one side. One of the men went underwater, and when the commotion was over, both men were seen swimming quickly to shore, yelling for help. There are no lifeguards at Ballston Beach, but the beachgoers, including a surgeon, administered first aid until the rescue squad arrived.
Initial reports seemed to downplay the incident, but Myers' injuries, first described as a bite on an ankle, were said to be much more significant, according to an eyewitness I spoke with. Officials have since stated that he is not expected to lose a limb, but received 47 stitches and bites to both lower legs. He is being treated at Mass General Hospital in Boston, and has requested that the hospital release no further information about his condition.
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries senior scientist Greg Skomal stated on Tuesday that although he has not examined or spoken with Myers, he is 90 percent certain that the injuries were consistent with an attack from a great white.
In lieu of the requisite photo of shark warning signs at Ballston Beach or photos of the swarm of satellite news crews, these are a couple water shots of my friends surfing very close to where Myers was attacked.
The surf zone on Cape Cod is a 25-mile stretch of shifting sandbars. It requires constant monitoring of the sand or really good luck in order to score. For the past year, some of the best bars have been right around the area where the attack occurred. While little is known about Myers, he probably doesn't feel too lucky that he found such a great sandbar.
If it was, in fact, a great white that attacked him, and he is on the mend in Boston recounting the tale with his son, he may not feel particularly lucky, but he is a very fortunate individual.
My very intelligent wife has yet to say, "I told you so," but it's safe to say that this year's hurricane season photos will include a few more land angles than the past.