Why we need to save the world’s most misunderstood predator
by Paul de Gelder
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Pub Date 17 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 07 Feb 2023
Harper 360, Mudlark
From shark attack survivor to the shark’s biggest advocate, Paul de Gelder tells us just why these majestic diverse animals need our help as much as we need them.
Something happens to you the first time you dive with sharks…
We have a perennial fascination with sharks. Portrayed in the media and popular culture as killing machines, we are awed by their power and strength. But the shark is so much more – a marvel of the sea, they have evolved over 450 million years into over 500 species, from the bioluminescent kitefin to the tiny dwarf lantern shark, the sociable lemon shark to the blue shark, which can birth up to 100 pups in one litter. Bringing balance to the ocean’s ecosystem, our planet is at serious risk when these amazing creatures are threatened.
Paul de Gelder, who lost two limbs in a shark attack during a mission as an elite Australian navy clearance diver, spent time as part of his recovery learning all about sharks. He became so obsessed that, despite what happened to him, he is now an expert and has dedicated his life to helping save them. Shark is his love-letter to these unfairly vilified animals, and his warning to the world about what will happen if we don’t look out for them.
Available on NetGalley
I love sharks so I'm always excited to read something new about them, I appreciate Paul de Gelder sharing his story. It was a beautiful tribute to the animal themselves, I was never bored and glad I was able to read this.
Forget Shark Week. How about Shark 400 Million Years? Because every week is apparently shark week. At least if you ask Paul de Gelder, who may be just a tiny bit fascinated by these pre-dinosaur apex predators:
“Sharks are winners. Not only do they exist in every sea and ocean around the world, but they are some of the oldest species on the planet, pre-dating even dinosaurs. They have survived five mass-extinction events, and despite 400 million years of evolution they remain wholly unchanged. Why? Because some things you just can’t improve upon, and the anatomy of the shark is one such marvel of nature.”
I know very little about sharks. If I were to see one swimming towards me, I’d die of fright in record speed. I share that cultural fear of a super-predator armed with rows of teeth - those that they can regrow over and over again - coming out of the depths and taking a bite out of me, even if I know I’m way more likely to die of much more mundane causes.
“Are some people attacked by sharks? Yes, and we’ll talk about some of them, but the truth is that far more people drown in their own bathtubs than are attacked by sharks. So why is it that so many of us are afraid to dip our toe in the ocean, but we have no worries about getting into a hot bath with a glass of wine?”
And then I read this book, and now not only do I know a bit more about sharks but I also feel very much fascinated by Paul de Gelder’s infectious enthusiasm about these marvels of nature. (By the way, he lost his hand and his leg to a bull shark, and *still* he admires them and does whatever he can to bring attention to them and to save sharks from truly terrifying merciless predators - humans, fueled by greed, revenge and memory of the movie “Jaws”).
‘The Jersey Man-Eater’ had given people a stark reminder that we’re not always top of the food chain, and as so often is the case when that happens, we lash out in fear, and the results are devastating.”
(Did you know that there is such an awesome shark species as a “ninja lantern shark”? Or a megamouth?? If nothing else, that would be an awesome band name, or at least a decently-titled single.)
Paul de Gelder has a very compelling narrative voice, and his writing style is very much that of a buddy narrating a story over a campfire — or perhaps a voiceover in the nature documentary. It’s easy to follow, funny, and quite earnest, but not in an cringeworthy way but in a way that makes you want to listen and pay attention. And it makes me think of all the times I scoffed at the news reporting a “shark attack” — it’s not like the shark got out and went to invade our homes; we are invading their territory and get surprised when an apex predator occasionally acts like one. Yeah…
“‘Shark-infested waters’ are an easy three words for a writer to use to conjure up fear, but let’s just stop right there. A shark isn’t infesting the water, it lives there. Would you say that humans infest their own houses? Although there have been tips of the cap to the majesty of these amazing creatures, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of movies, and works of fiction in general, have turned the shark into a misunderstood villain, often at times attributing to it the kind of evil qualities that are in fact only inherent in human beings. If sharks had lawyers. they could sue the hell out of studios for defamation of character, but alas, that’s not going to happen.”
4 stars, and maybe next year I’ll actually pay attention to Shark Week because now I actually know enough to care.
Thanks to NetGalley and Harper 360, Mudlark for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
I love Paul de Gelder. I've known about him for several years because I'm obsessed with sharks and Shark Week. Paul went from being scared of sharks to attacked by one to loving and wanting to protect these beautiful animals.
This book is his love letter basically to all things sharks. You will learn a lot about different shark types, eating habits, and so much more. ( Although, if, like me, you watch Shark Week religiously, there isn't much new in here you shouldn't know ) But not only does he help with learning more about sharks, he warns us about what will happen of things don't change. Sharks NEED to be protected. We all need to step up and do our part to help these beautiful animals from becoming extinct, which would cause harm for us.
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