The camp fire was almost out. Only two people were left, staring at the waning fire, the glowing embers.
“I enjoyed all of the stories tonight”
The words danced around the trees and tents. No response came.
She coughed, and repeated the line, staring intently at his face.
“Mmn. I think it was irresponsible, all those stories. Just spewed out into the night air. Stories can kill.”
“Hah. Don’t be silly. you saying you’ve saved the best scary story for last?”
“I have a story about a story. I don’t know if it’s scary; that’s up to you. Imagine, if you will, that there are two large swimming pools…
In the first is a white pointer shark, Carcharodon carcharias, the biggest mackerel in the ocean, aka the Great White Shark.
In the other is a Tiger Shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, a requiem shark, alone in its own genus.
Now here’s the thing, you have to get into one of the tanks. This isn’t a trick question, there is a right and a wrong answer. And it starts here, you have to get into one of the tanks. With one of the sharks. Oh, and by the way, both the sharks are, for our last story of the night purposes, both hungry.”
“That’s insane. there can’t be a right answer. They’re both hungry sharks. I’ll get eaten.”
“But it’s your choice. and you can get it right. You have a fifty fifty chance.”
“I choose the Tiger Shark.”
“ECH-EHU. And the right answer? The right answer is Jaws. That’s right, the great white shark is the safest. And it seems wrong, it feels, wrong, but it’s right. Counter intuitive, but right. Here’s why.
The Great White attacks man. No doubt, plenty of records (even when you filter out misidentifications -most people attacked near shore or at the mouth of rivers are more likely mauled by a bull shark, which looks very similar, and has a range that overlaps the great whites.
Even ruling that out, there are first hand accounts and video evidence of great whites having a go at humans. So there’s no doubt, great whites attack humans. But there is a subtle difference. Great whites don’t eat humans. Tigers do.
It breaks down like this. You are out, swimming and get attacked by a great white. You get attacked because the white has mistaken you for prey. But the absolute very second it bites you, the shark realises it’s mistake, and lets go, leaves you alone. You aren’t a prey item. Trust me, great whites attack seals, and scavenge whale carcases. Even the fattest, blubberiest, twenty stone human does not rate highly on the kinds of fat a white is used to. You get spat out as unappetising. Imagine spending your whole life eating blocks of the best butter, then one day biting down hard on low fat margarine. Now, of course, being bitten by an animal anywhere between seven and nineteen foot long, with three rows of jagged, razor sharp teeth and a biting pressure of around three thousand pounds per square inch, is going to impact your day in a negative way (ask Rodney Fox) but the point is, the devastating wound, the high chance that you’ve lost a limb, and the certainty of massive blood loss aside, it is survivable (Ask Rodney Fox). The point to remember here is, it is survivable. You have a chance. Devastating injuries, sure, but you have a chance. A high chance that you’ll make it back to the beach, get to tell everyone ‘it was a great white that did this’. A slimmer chance to live past it, maybe, but still, there is hope that you will be able to tell the tale of your attack many years later. And that’s the key. You live to tell the story, you aren’t a prey item. The time you survived a Great white attack. A good story, right?
Everyone loves that story. so it spreads, people hear it, love it, retell it. Great Whites became feared. ‘Look at what they can do’.
Now, the tiger shark, however, eats. Eats you, all up. Yum yum. Humans are a prey item. It doesn’t spit you out. It likes ya. You have no chance to make it back to the beach, you don’t get to tell everyone that it was a Tiger shark that bit you, as you’ve been eaten bit by bit, and are too busy being turned into fish pooh. While your friends on the beech just think you went home early. At best, you’re a missing person.
So the stories are set. The great white is feared, and the Tiger is a relatively obscure animal, worried about, as any large shark is, but comes off with a better, less dangerous reputation than the white.
Because stories are kinder to it.
Those are the kind of stories that kill.”