All over the world, surfers remain constantly mindful of that which lurks below.
Received wisdom says we’ve got it pretty good in Britain, because although our murky depths serve as a home for several species of sharks, attacks are virtually non-existent and there’s never been an officially confirmed sighting of, or an encounter with a Great White.
There are however, numerous uncorroborated accounts online, accompanied by headlines intended to strike terror, recounting Great White sightings off the coast of Britain. However experts say they are yet to see compelling evidence. Which effectively means in all the years people have been milling about on Blighty’s beaches, conducting offshore research, surfing, fishing and diving, a Great White has never been caught in a fishing net, featured in a clear image, or come into close contact with a scientist.
If you accept these findings, and don’t dismiss them as a giant UK tourism board cover-up, the question quickly becomes one that has been puzzling scientists for decades; if they aren’t here, then why aren’t they?
We have one of the largest seal populations in the world and our water temperatures are well within the range deemed acceptable by Great Whites. They also like to hunt in murky water, which we’ve got plenty of. So what have they got against Blighty?
Theories are fairly thin on the ground, but we’ve managed to dig up a few logical sounding ones, although if you’re hoping for highfalutin science you’re going to be a little disappointed.
The first and most compelling theory is that the sharks are content where they are. It sounds simple, under closer inspection it seemes to makes sense. We can assume, due to the lack of credible sightings, there is not a native population of Great White’s in Britain, which would mean they would have to migrate from either The USA’s east coast, or the Mediterranean. The theory goes that there’s not sufficient purpose in expending all the energy required to travel such long distances, when they’ve got everything they need right there.
If this is the reason, however, things could be about to change. Vastly depleted fish stocks have seen many marine animals migrating north in recent years, and if the food supply reaches critical level, there’s every chance Great Whites could be following in their wake.
Another possible reason is that, having never visited, they simply don’t know about UK waters. This doesn’t sound particularly scientific either, but some experts believe it is possible that the sharks have just never discovered UK waters and the abundance of food they hold.
And that’s pretty much it. Admittedly, it ain’t exactly a smoking gun. But until proved otherwise, we’re going to continue surfing carefree, safe in the belief they’re not out there lurking in the depths.