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.
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]
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]
Researchers at the University of Florida report that 2012 was a banner year in terms of shark attacks in the U.S., just not in a good way. According to a new study released earlier this week, there were 53 reported attacks last year. That is a steep increase over 2011, when just 31 attacks were recorded.
Despite the fact that this is the highest total in more than a decade, scientists assure us that there is no indication that sharks are actually getting more aggressive. One of the researchers in charge of the report said that a more likely cause for the high numbers is simple economics. In recent years, the global recession has kept people from traveling as much as they have in the past, which includes going to the beach on their holiday. With fewer people at the beach, the sharks have fewer people to prey upon. But as the economy showed signs of life last year, more people went back into the water.
If you’re looking to reduce your chances of a painful – possibly deadly – shark encounter, you may want to avoid visiting Florida. According to the report, it was the state with the highest number of attacks in 2012 with 26 in total. Hawaii came in a distant second with 10. California had just 5 attacks, but one of those was fatal.
On an international level, Australia was second to the U.S. with a total of 14 attacks despite the fact that it has far more miles of coastline. The country also has almost 300 million fewer people than the States as well, which is a contributing factor as to why the numbers are significantly lower. South Africa was third with four total attack, although three of those were fatal.
[Photo Credit: Harryemi via WikiMedia]