Nature in All Its Glory

Ignorance Is Bliss: Shark Facts We Wish We Didn’t Know Before Going to the Beach

by Jordan Siskind-Weiss

Close to shore. Photo by Christian Haugen / Flickr

It's Shark Week and everyone's on the beach. Whether you heed warnings or throw caution to the wind, it's good to arm yourself with timely (scary) trivia.

CAPE TOWN – The iconic, primary colored wooden cabanas lined the entrance to the expansive Muizenburg Beach, a little piece of paradise just outside Cape Town, South Africa. The crescent-shaped coastline encapsulated rolling sets of barrel-like waves perfect for surfing. Surf shops and cafes right above the sand had tables facing athletes at play. What seemed like a vision of a surfing paradise was interrupted occasionally by a blaring siren: a shark spotted in the lagoon. Time to evacuate.

I arrived in South Africa merely a month before infamous Shark Week. Watching specials on the great white sharks of the world was surreal when viewed from the comfort of my New York City apartment. Those 140-character shark Tweets, when read at the beach in Cape Town, hit a little too close to home.

Had I not actively avoided the heavily publicized giant megalodon in the media, I might have ended up on dry land forever. But in the end, ignorance was bliss. And when the Muizenburg "shark spotters" declared that the big, bad fish had left the lagoon and it was safe to swim again, I ran right back into the water with my fellow adrenaline junkies.

In the end, it didn't keep me from falling into the Internet shark hole. Here are five facts I picked up:

1. There are over 400 species of sharks in a variety of shapes, sizes, and levels of danger to humans. The largest within the species, a whale shark (weighing in at 47,000 pounds), was first discovered in Cape Town, South Africa.

2. Sharks have four rows of teeth. Isn't that comforting? They regularly shed the front ones to make room for the following set of knife-like crustacean chompers.

3. The fastest swimming shark, the shortfin mako, can swim up to 46 miles per hour. Even Ryan Lochte would be up shit's creek.

4. The majority of shark attacks occur roughly one hundred feet from the shore, mainly around highly populated beaches in South Africa, Australia, and North America (especially Florida and Hawaii).

5. The bull shark, despite its relatively small size, has a potential bite force of up to 1,600 pounds, the strongest of any cartilaginous fish. Admire them! And keep your distance.


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We make every effort to ensure the information in our articles is accurate at the time of publication. But the world moves fast, and even we double-check important details before hitting the road.