The Life Aquatic with Richard B

This month we’re showing “Jaws” and we’ve got one of our members sharking in on the blog! As well as his other talents as artist, cook, carpenter, linguist and general Uomo Universale, our friend Richard Bartle used to be a deep sea diver.
So if you’re wondering if it is safe to go back in the water, here are his thoughts from 5 fathoms deep:

diver1The utter irrational behaviour of some trainee divers was always a source of mild amusement to me, not that I did not empathise with their fear – rather, that pronouncing one’s phobia of sharks by the side of a swimming pool in down town Maltby seemed somewhat irrational.

But the issue remained and the effect was stunning; I guess this is the legacy of Jaws, Spielberg’s syndrome, the utter irrational fear of the subaquatic environment – I certainly remember a few people whose fear was such that they panicked, coughed, spluttered, hyperventilated and eventually had to be rescued from a chlorinated death.

Why, even the other day, when I was promoting the Film Club and the showing of Jaws, I was confronted by a friend who became so agitated at the idea of seeing this film again that he descended in to anecdotal narratives of shark attacks.

But I guess that’s it when it comes to Jaws, opinions and reactions will always be divided and extreme. On the one hand there will always be those people who swim swim swim, oblivious to the nightmare that is the marine environment, then there will be the paddlers and the waders in varying degrees of bravado, and finally, the irrationalists – those people whose fear of sharks is so acute that they break out in cold sweats at the sight of a glass of water. It’s an emotive issue and I guess one which will always be of mild amusement to those of us who have spent any time subaquatic.

And so, before we sit down and watch  “Le Poisson Terrible” one more time, I feel I must impart some facts.

Firstly, its important to understand that the ocean actually is teaming with deadly marine life! Apart from sharks there are; Sea Snakes, and Lion Fish, and Jelly Fish, and Stone Fish – all of which would be just a fatal and just as painful as being eaten alive. But if you’re a paddler then you should also know about nasty stingy spiky Anemones, or Killer Whales that leap on to beaches, or even microscopic organisms that crawl up your urethra and eat you from the inside out.

IMG_0105Why even the humble shark can still do its ‘sharky’ thing in just s few feet of water. You have reason to be cautious! Listen, I’ve been there! I’ve seen it! I’ve even had a nasty encounter with a Dog Fish on Portland Bill, been bullied by a giant Conga Eel on a wreck near Anglesey, and even had Octopi pick fights on several occasions – its an alien world, another world within our world – in needs respect.

But then, before you run away in terror, hang up your bathing suit, and elect to never wash again, please understand this. On a planet of 7 billion inhabitants the number of people killed annually by being bitten, stung, poisoned or eaten alive by anything underwater can be counted on a few fingers. And here is the truth – from all the watery incidents of my life I can honestly say that the majority, and there were few, were from the discarded junk of humans, fishing lines, nets, and tangles of wires. So as you watch Jaws again, pity the poor shark as the villain in this story, she is only doing her thing and eating to survive. And when you next swim. When that creeping “der der, der der…” pops into your head – remember this:

You are more likely to get tangled in the strings of a discarded Double Bass than be swallowed whole by a shark!

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