06 October 2009

1 in 3,748,067

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, the odds of being killed by a shark worldwide are 1 in 3,748,067, as compared to 1 in 79,746 for being killed by lightning, 1 in 13,729 for sun/heat exposure, and 1 in 84 for car accidents. Since 1749, there have been 26 recorded unprovoked attacks (only one of them fatal) by sharks in the Bahamas region (which includes the Turks and Caicos).

Caribbean Reef Shark
I took this photo just two days ago.

I'm not sure if I'm quoting these statistics to reassure you or to reassure myself. Yesterday a fisherman from South Caicos (a Haitian guy) was bitten by a shark. As you can imagine, all sorts of rumors are flying around and it's not clear what exactly happened. It's doubtful we'll ever get an accurate story, but what I know for sure is that the shark did not kill him. His fate, however, is still uncertain. Haitians immigrants definitely fall at the bottom of the social ladder here (they are the target of discrimination and are blamed for an array of social ills), and it's not clear he'll be receiving the same treatment as (for example) I might. In fact, Jessee learned from a woman at the immigration office that he's likely to be deported. Though he's apparently survived the attack and the subsequent blood loss, I fear what might happen to him if he has to rely on the Haitian medical system for further treatment. Word has gotten back from Provo that he would not consent to amputation of his arm, which (I assume) puts him at a very high risk of infection and other complications.

What has many people concerned is the rumor that the attack took place before any spearfishing activities had begun. Spearfishing (no surprise) attracts and excites sharks, so (though still tragic) it would have at least been explainable. If you ask me, I would guess (or maybe I'd just like to believe) that they were actually spearfishing at the time of the attack. Even though it's very common, spearfishing is illegal in TCI. And I would imagine, even in the aftermath of an attack, a Haitian immigrant would fear the repercussions of breaking such a law and attempt to hide that he had done so.

The whole ordeal had me pretty shaken up, especially because in the next few days I am supposed to be participating in some (DECR approved) spearfishing activities for a Smithsonian research project. I haven't decided yet whether or not I'll still be taking part, but I already feel much differently today than I did immediately after hearing about the incident. No matter what, I do get some comfort from the aforementioned statistics. Right now, at least, I feel confident that I will fall victim to "death caused by sun/heat exposure" before I will to shark attack (apparently I jumped the gun when I wrote about the cooler weather arriving for Fall).

No comments:

Post a Comment