Friday, May 15, 2015

Twelve Days of Terror: Shark Attacks in 1916 - Terror on the beach and in a creek

Shark attacks are one of the most scary horrors that people think of when they think of going into the water. The prospect of a perfect and unfeeling predator swimming silently to a person in the water, and biting large chunks of flesh, causing a death by horrific blood loss is bound to scare even the most courageous of people. The rattling off statistics that the number of deaths caused by shark attacks is mostly in the single digits worldwide and hence very unlikely to happen does not reduce the scare. Even now, the prospect of a shark in the waters can bring all the swimmers out of the water; although studies which show that sharks and people swimming side by side in the waters off Sydney show that sharks just don't attack people; there are some reasons why an attack would have happened.
But why this fear of sharks ? Why this unsettling feeling when there is even some news of a shark in the water ? A lot of people based it on a very popular movie called 'Jaws' (released in 1975, and based on a novel by Peter Benchley, published in 1974), which showed a small beach town terrorized by a great white shark and how people died in these attacks. The prospect of such a common pastime, going to the beach and swimming in the water, suddenly becoming so dangerous, stayed in the minds of people and caused the movie to become a major event (and a marked negative influence for the health of the many species of sharks). But the novel was not just fiction. It was based on attacks that took place in 1916, during the First World War, in the waters off New Jersey, where a great white shark not only killed people in the water off the coast, but even came inland in a creek and killed more people (for a total of 4 dead and one badly injured). These incidents have all been forgotten, if not for this book, whose author Richard Fernicola did extensive research on these attacks and describes these events in terrifying details.

Book: Twelve Days of TerrorMovie: 12 Days of TerrorMovie: Jaws

Doing research on these attacks was not easy. The attacks happened nearly a century back and recollection of these events was not easy. Further, the First World War was happening in that timeframe, which made research so much time later even more difficult, The book does not only describe the events which happened, but also provides a lot of information about sharks and why the attacks could have taken place. And how did the author get interested in this story ? He heard a conversation about these attacks, which caused him to get interested, and led to a lot of research and finally the emergence of this book.
The book also provides information about the nature of the attacks and describes the wounds caused on the dead and the survivor; something that most modern day attacks do not actually describe. What is most interesting is the research about why the attacks could have taken place, and if you see modern documentaries that research shark attacks, in a lot of cases, there are conclusions that it was some activity of man (or in some cases, natural causes) that in turn change the behavior of the shark and could cause these attacks.

Twelve Days of Terror: Shark Attacks in 1916 - Terror on the beach and in a creek

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