Ten Top Sharks
A totally arbitrary countdown of my top ten sharks, rated according to sheer coolness:-
10 Grey Nurse
Huh? If you know this shark, you might be puzzled that it's in the list at all. It's medium sized but not normally reckoned to be dangerous to man (though the truth is that very few sharks are). I'm putting it in because it gave me my one and only charged moment. I was in an aquarium, and standing near the glass wall of one of those large panoramic tanks. I was watching these two grey nurses lazily circling in hypnotic fashion. They were the biggest in that particular tank. And as one of them swept round again, exactly as it was pointing at me, it suddenly gaped its mouth, teeth very visible. It was an interesting adrenalin filled fraction of a second before I remembered I was on the other side of that pane of glass.
9 Great White Shark
Well I don't know, it's been over exposed, hasn't it? I daresay I'd find it much less boring if I was ever to find myself face to face with one, but it's been made far too familiar by the wrong sort of film. As a result of which it's been over-hunted and might well be joining number 6 in the ranks of the vanished. Also, it's a bit burly for my tastes. But it's still here, thanks to its sheer power and presence. Those scary blank black eyes...
8 Bull Shark
Chunky, medium sized, and not very attractive. But pay very careful attention. In one way this ugly fish has a claim to be number one: it is probably the biggest killer of people, of all the sharks. Bet you thought it'd be something like the great white or the tiger? Nope. Its kills have often been blamed on great whites because the shape of the bite is very similar. The thing about this one is that its natural habitat is coastal waters, and even someway up rivers, which means it gets a lot of contact with people.
7 Whale Shark
It's here partly because it's the biggest shark alive,
and partly because of that beautiful skin pattern. Like several of these species, threatened by over fishing.
14 metres long.
Luckily, this one isn't coming to a swimming pool near you anytime soon. It's - hopefully - extinct, by some tens of thousands of years. It was the biggest of the lot; it's the one you see in some dinosaur books, illustrated by a picture of a man standing upright inside its jaws. Which of course are the only parts of a shark's skeleton to fossilize. It's generally thought to have resembled the great white. But well over three times the size.
Agh, I should have found a picture of this. I just think it's amazing, with that great disproportionate scythe of a tail. Rare.
4 Tiger Shark
one of the most dangerous sharks there is, big and unafraid of man,
as inclined to attack you as the famous great white. But it's also in
the list for the skin pattern which gave it its name - shame it's not
really visible in this picture (right).
Can be over 7 metres long.
3 Mako Shark
Ah... this fish is medium sized, sometimes larger; it has a great name which naturally lent itself to a very special model of Corvette Stingray which car fans will remember fondly; and it happens to be the fastest shark in the oceans, with a top speed over 75 km/h. And they're very smart with it.
2 Blue Shark
This is a killer. It's an open ocean species thought to be the principal villain behind the terrible USS Indianapolis disaster of 1945, when some 900 sailors were killed after their ship went down. It's up to 3.8m long, highly inquisitive and hunts in packs. But the reason it's here at number 2 is apparent I hope in the picture - look at that streamlining. This, surely, is the supermodel of the shark world, with unbeatable pure fast lines.
1 Great Hammerhead
This is my Big Daddy, my number one. For me, the pictures speak for themselves, but there's more to admire than this combination of sheer size and sleek racing car lines.
really came about because I found myself reading, fascinated, an article
in the October issue of BBC Wildlife magazine. I was
utterly convinced. The writer, Simon Rogerson, went
looking for them, and these are his pictures. He notes repeatedly the
effect an individual has on the surrounding wildife, when they appear.
They're scared, all of them.
This shark eats other sharks. It's certainly smart, like I've observed about one or two others in this list. Hammerheads are reckoned by some scientists to be the most recently evolved of shark species, and this one is the biggest, at 6-7 metres long. Be thankful that despite its reputation it doesn't seem to go for humans.
A vision of class and beauty.
21 October 2003
the great hammerhead at the BBC
website; and there is Focus magazine, the November issue has a shark feature which provided me with
the other shark pictures above.
You might also like to read about efforts to conserve sharks, at the Shark Trust.