The plethora of shark attacks along the Carolina Coast this summer has spawned headlines across the country and, I assume, around the globe; reading or hearing those accounts, one might think that cosmic forces have aligned to drive us from the beaches. After all, we humans look at ourselves as custodians of this planet, immune to the predator-prey relationship that lower creatures must endure.
Yet, during our 130,000 year history on Earth, we have been attacked, killed and/or eaten by a wide variety of predators, including big cats, bears, wolves, hyenas, snakes, bees and mosquitoes, to name just a few. Once we entered marine environments, some 70,000 years ago, we became susceptible to sharks and other ocean predators as well. Of course, in recent centuries, we have come to adore the beach, crowding there during the warmer months to lounge in the sun and surf like so many seals and walruses.
Entering the domain of sharks, we place ourselves at the mercy of natural killers that have inhabited the oceans for 350 million years. While they may be drawn toward shore by other prey (schools of fish, sea turtles, etc.) they have no reason to ignore thrashing human beings, just another convenient source of food. After such attacks, the media tends to report that the shark "mistook" the person for a seal or large fish; in fact, we humans, despite our superior intelligence, are just hunks of meat to a shark. The only way to totally prevent shark attacks is to stay out of their habitat (or, perhaps, to swim in a suite of armor).