"I wonder if there is a shark here?" is a thought I have pretty much every time I'm more than waist-deep in any open ocean. It seems both important to consider and also totally pointless; if the answer were "yes," there is not much to be done about it.
So, it was with grim curiosity that I discovered SHARKTIVITY, a handy iOS app for tracking Great White shark activity along Cape Cod. Created by the folks at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to "help people and White Sharks co-exist peacefully", Sharktivity provides the occasionally nervous the surety that, yep, there is probably a shark here somewhere.
Data from reported sightings, satellite tracking, acoustic radar, and uh [squints at notes] ALERTS??!, become blips on an interactive map, all aggregating along the coastline. Some data points include a photo of "known" sharks (missed opportunity for an OMAR COMIN' YO) or updates on the quality and duration of the sighting. Even the extremely brief notes say everything: ~12 foot white shark.
Sharktivity "DOES NOT CONTAIN OR CONSTITUTE, AND SHOULD NOT BE INTERPRETED AS ADVICE", though it can offer safety tips for the undeterred. Don't swim alone, don't go too far out, don't touch the seals. As with many things, there's a risk. We can be prepared, but then what?
Swimming this past weekend, I ducked under a few rough waves and was in water almost up to my shoulders when a seal appeared just a few feet away, bobbing its head above the surf. We stared at one another for a few moments, figuring each other out. Then, it dove beneath another wave and completely disappeared. I had the feeling it was still close, but I'd never know where. The ocean was space we might share, but it was suddenly clear only one of us was really suited for it.
THE ONLY WAY TO COMPLETELY RULE OUT A CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH A SHARK IS TO STAY ON SHORE—Sharktivity's only truly definitive advice. The secret to co-existing peacefully, it seems, is knowing when to let go.