Eccentric England: The Headington Shark

Headington Shark
Henry Flower

Once again, I’m back in Oxford for my annual summer working holiday. I love this place. This quintessentially English city offers beautiful colleges, the world’s coolest museum, even the chance to bump into the Queen.

But all this pales in comparison to the sight of a giant shark crashing into a roof.

The Oxford suburb of Headington is a bit dull, so local resident Bill Heine at 2 New High Street decided to commission sculptor John Buckley to create a 25-foot shark to adorn his roof. It was put up on August 9, 1986, the 41st anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing. As Heine explained, “The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation … It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki.”

The clipboard Nazis in the local council were not amused. They tried to have it removed as a pubic hazard. When their engineer said it was perfectly safe, they tried various other excuses. Much legal wrangling ensued.

Decades later, the naysayers are all gone and the shark is still there. It’s a much-loved local landmark, a modern folly. I see it every time I come in on the bus from London and enjoy pointing it out to newcomers. There’s even a Headington Shark Appreciation Society on Facebook with more than a thousand members. So if you’re coming to Oxford, pop on over and see the Headington Shark.

Tanzania Government To Fishermen: ‘Stop Catching Dolphins, It Upsets The Tourists’

Tanzania
The government of Tanzania is urging fishermen to stop hunting dolphins, a report in the Daily News says.

The report says dolphin hunting has become common practice in the Dar es Salaam and Tanga regions. It’s often done by “dynamite fishing,” in which explosives are chucked into the water to kill all marine life in a large area. Dolphin meat is used to bait sharks, which is what the fishermen are really after. Shark fins are a delicacy that sell for high prices.

Tourists have even spotted fishermen catching dolphins in Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park. Tourism is big business in Tanzania thanks to its diverse wildlife and being home to the Mt. Kilimanjaro part of the Serengeti. Seeing Flipper being blown up, hauled into a boat, cut to pieces and used as shark bait would definitely ruin an ecotourist’s vacation.

Dolphins have been a protected species in Tanzania since 2009. It’s not clear how well this is known among fishermen, however. Even if fishermen do know they’re flaunting the law, the need to be breadwinners for their families may outweigh any concerns about conservation or the health of an industry of which they are not a part.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user hobbs_luton. There is no indication that these particular Tanzanian fishermen are engaged in dolphin hunting]

Wrestle A Shark, Become A Hero And Get Fired

shark
Back in January we showed this amazing video of a man wrestling a shark on a beach in Queensland, Australia.

Paul Marshallsea, 62, became an Internet sensation when he pulled the 2-meter-long dusky shark away from swimmers. Unfortunately for him, fame came at a price.

Marshallsea has been fired from his job as a project coordinator at the Pant and Dowlais Boys and Girls Club in Wales. In a letter quoted by the BBC, the club trustees said that although he was on sick leave during the incident he had apparently been healthy enough to wrestle a shark. The hint being, of course, that he was faking his illness.

Marshallsea objects that he wasn’t on sick leave for a physical ailment, but for work-related stress.

In a statement on their website, the club states that he was dismissed for a “variety of issues” unrelated to his holiday in Australia.

It’s a case of he-said, they-said and it’s difficult to see who’s right since the club is refusing to make any further statement to the press. You think they could have cut the guy some slack, though. If he can wrestle sharks, he can probably handle a bunch of Welsh kids.

[Photo courtesy SeaWorld, Queensland. The shark-wrestling incident did not involve a SeaWorld shark]

Video: Man Wrestles Shark On Australian Beach

Would you wrestle a shark? This British holidaymaker did when he spotted one close to some children on a beach in Queensland, Australia.

Paul Marshallsea, 62, grabbed the two-meter-long dusky shark by the tail and dragged it away from shore. As soon as it got in deeper water, the BBC reports, it turned on him and almost bit his leg.

Dusky sharks have the most powerful bite of any of the 400 shark species. While they aren’t considered one of the most dangerous varieties, they should be treated with caution.

Lifeguards and members of the coast guard were then able to lure the shark into a nearby creek with the hope that it would return to sea with the tide. They said the animal is probably sick and while they praised Marshallsea’s actions, they don’t recommend wrestling sharks.

Snorkeling in the Galapagos

Snorkeling allows those of us who either can’t afford or are too scared to SCUBA dive to still experience the wonders of the ocean. That said, often the most awe-inspiring aquatic sites are hidden deep below the surface and hidden to those of us who don’t have an oxygen tank strapped to our backs. Thankfully, if you find yourself in the Galapagos Islands, the animals of the sea come looking for you. That makes it one of the most satisfying and rewarding places to snorkel.

I visited the islands a few months ago and strapped a ContourGPS HD video camera to my snorkel mask for a week of exploration. Every single time I entered the water, I swam with a creature that I’d only previously encountered at aquariums. Notice that I said “swam with.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that the sea lions frolicked with us, the penguins teased us and the sharks shared some close encounters with us. Unlike any other place that I have been, snorkeling in the Galapagos is very much an interactive wildlife experience and you don’t need to be a professional cameraperson to capture the action.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games with animals in the Galapagos. I learned a few things in the water. Did you know that penguins poop while swimming? It’s like a public pool over there!