In keeping with my theme of writing about animals that not everyone loves, I thought I might share a personal story about one of our first adventures in the Lowcountry.
One of the things we loved to do was to anchor our boat and swim in Mackey’s Creek across from Pinckney Island.
As I was swimming off our anchored boat, my wife yelled out, “Get out of the water quick! There is a shark!”
“A shark? You have to be joking,” I said. “Not kidding,” she said. “It was a shark. Get out of the water – now!”
Reluctantly, I got back in the boat, then realized I was mistaken about my company in the water. She was right. It was a shark.
As I subsequently learned, Port Royal Sound, located between Hilton Head Island and Beaufort, can be teaming with sharks depending on the time of year. Our warmer waters fill up quickly with a very diverse and bountiful population of sharks. And, right now, we are now in the midst of shark season!
The waters around us are known as a primary breeding ground for many shark species. The local waters near Hilton Head Island host many types of sharks, including hammerheads, tigers, blacktip, spinners, sharp nose, bonnet-heads, bull sharks, and even Great Whites have been spotted and captured here. Yes, we are talking about the Great White that was made famous by the movie “Jaws.”
So do we stop going to the beach or avoid swimming, water skiing, tubing, etc.? Of course not. Most people understand that the risks are minimal and go about enjoying our beaches and waterways.
It turns out that sharks have a lot more to fear from us than we have of them. Peter Benchley, the author of “Jaws,” became an environmentalist and publicly regretted the unnecessary fear and hysteria that his best-selling book and subsequent blockbuster movie created. He said “What I now know, which wasn’t known when I wrote ‘Jaws,’ is that there is no such thing as a rogue shark which develops a taste for human flesh.”
What Benchley understood at the time was that a book about a fish that is living as nature intended will not sell as many copies or get movie rights as one that is designed to strike fear in us.
However, as Benchley later learned, as a general rule, we should be skeptical of writers who describe animals as vicious predators or endow them with malevolent moral qualities.
There are neither good nor evil animals. This is true of sharks, venomous snakes, coyotes, or any wild animal. These animals simply do what they evolved to do.
John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek. firstname.lastname@example.org