February 18 2004
From Dr. Coppleson's Book
Printed 1958
Writers for many years, especially in the U.S., have labeled most
stories of shark attacks on humans as "fish yarns". An example of
this type of thinking appeared in the American magazine, Collier's,
in 1944 during World War 2. In all good faith the author of the
article was trying to be helpful, for many American servicemen
were on operations in shark infested tropical and sub-tropical
waters. The author's association with sharks must have been
confined to an armchair, or to a well-bred gentlemanly variety
of shark, for he advised those who found themselves in the track
of an oncoming shark not to be worried.

"When the shark attacks" he wrote "swim to the side and grab his
pectoral fin and ride him as long as your breath can hold.
The shark's belly is his most vulnerable spot, and many cases have
been reported in which a fisherman has been able to on long enough
to cut a slit  in the shark's underpart. This lets water inside and kills
the beast almost immediately. ..... All in all, people more from shark
fright than shark bite"

The last sentence of this thesis is full of wisdom, the rest must be
regarded as what the Americans aptly term 'baloney".

During the war, the United States Navy issued a booklet,
Shark Sense, to naval personnel who might encounter sharks in the
tropical waters. It is cleverly written, delightful, humorous and full
of sound advice, as well as a sense of proportion on a subject that is
often over-dramatized. To some extent it falls into the same error as
the Collier's article by regarding the killer shark as something that
comes out of legend rather than actuality.

Another edition of Shark Sense was published in the years following
and the killer shark was treated with more respect- the Navy had
changed it's mind. According to the publication it is "a mean,
treacherous, hungry predator". Having warned flyers to beware the
man-eating shark, this Navy handbook outlines most of the accepted
ways of reducing the danger from an enemy that never officially
declares war.

 Once having taken an official interest in sharks, the Americans are
going into the subject with typical thoroughness. Not only is the
Navy using all of it's resources on the problem but the American
Institute of Biological Sciences in June 1958 established a Shark
Research panel in association with its Hydrobiology Committee.
This means that the killer sharks are up against a formidable

Already the Panel has set up a world wide organization which,
whenever s an attack occurs, ensures that a report from a physician
or scientist on the spot supplying full details of the attack. In January
each year, the Panel publishes a full list of attacks in all parts of the
world. Scientists hope that these statisticsw ill guide them to the
sharks' innermost secrets.

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