There are probably as many arguments as to which of all the myriad species of shark is the most beautiful as there are divers and sailors, propped on beach-side bars, with sand on their feet and rum in their hands the world over. From the raw majesty of the Great White, to the sublime joke of the yellow and black spotted Leopard shark who gives birth to a black and white striped zebra pup, it is hard to find even two that can be compared on even ground. For our money however, for both looks AND personality, for surely inner beauty should also be considered in this debate, there is no surpassing the beautiful Tiger Sharks of Shark Bay. And before the rum addled voices start raising voices of discontent, we do believe our claim is valid and that we can call the Tigers, despite their gypsy ocean wanderings, Shark Bay and Australia’s very own. Allow me to explain..
Growing up in a place like Shark Bay is the stuff any well constructed young child’s dreams are made of. A healthy disregard for shoe’s (even to the point of not being part of the school uniform), and showers..yep that’s me on the right..
Shy young thing eh? Plus ACRES of untouched, shallow, calm bays and beaches abounding with marine life and sunken treasure and a maritime history that would ignite anyone’s imagination . When investigated further the maritime history of Shark Bay (if the name didn’t already give it away) has a distinctly sharky flavour. The main theme all seems to revolve around the gloriously seductive stripy Tiger shark. The first of the maritime exploration juggernauts to fall under its spell as far back as 1699 was the legendary English buccaneer/pirate, Black Bill, or William Dampier.
Responsible for our modern image of the pirate. Big hat, long hair, parrot on the shoulder and a certain debonair charm exhibited as he prodded you at the end of his sword off the end of the plank, he was described by English wordsmith Lord Byron as the “most noble, mild mannered man..to ever cut a throat or sink a ship”, earning him the epitaph of the “Gentleman Pirate”. He was also responsible for naming Shark Bay and introducing the words avocadoe, chopstick and buccaneer into the English diction as well as the word barbeque, which frankly should see him minted on the back of Aussie coins and given a national holiday long weekend. Instead due to the vagaries of political history, a rather biased East coast, Cook based tourism industry and the modicum of distasteful slave trading Bill dabbled in, he was expunged from the English history of Australia. Expunged DESPITE beating a rather more tepid and less colourful, though apparently tasty, LUIETENANT Cook by almost a full century as the first Englishman to set foot on our sandy shark laden shores. The first words written about Shark Bays Tiger sharks by Dampier are written in September 1699.
“The space between its two eyes was 20 inches, and 18 inches from one corner of his mouth to the other. Its Maw [stomach] was like a leather sack, very thick and so tough that a sharp knife could not cut it. In which we found the Head and Bones of a Hippopotamus…,”
His ships artist was also to draw the first anatomically accurate field sketch of the Hippo gobbling Tiger for the annals of marine biological history.
The distinct lack of hippos and the abundance of Dugongs would make one suggest, though not in front of a sword toting Black Bill, that perhaps he possibly confused the two. The only shark that would fit the bill, pardon the pun, would be the Tiger. His ships artist was also to draw the first anatomically accurate field sketch of the Hippo gobbling Tiger for the annals of marine biological history. The Tiger had to wait a full and exact century before being further classified under the binomial linear system which we use today. This honour befell the French in 1799, in…wait for it Shark Bay.
Francois Peron was perhaps the greatest scientist to ever grace the mirror calm waters of Shark Bay. He single handedly collected more specimens for the natural history museum in Paris than EVERY SINGLE OTHER EUROPEAN VOYAGE TO THAT TIME COMBINED! It could be argued that he is the father of our modern sciences of Anthropology, Oceanography, Ecology and the catalyst for our modern understanding of the importance of conservation. He was however born in France, so in keeping with our great Australian colonial tradition of eurocentric history recollections, we shall only discuss him briefly as frankly, to focus on one whom is not accustomed to croquet and cucumber sandwiches.. well it is just not cricket! 🙂
Peron’s scientific voyage of discovery, commissioned by a beautiful young Empress Josephine and funded by Napoleon put a young Zoologist at the height of his brilliance on board the Uranie whilst they caught and studied the majestic tigers in the Bay for the glory of France. His name was Cuvier. When the voyage left the bay it left the Tiger for the first time in European history recognised and classified under the; at the time brand new Binomeal Linnear system that we still use today as Galeocerdo Cuvier. The young Zoologist fell so deepy under the spell of the beautiful Tiger sharks of the Bay that he named them after himself.
So.. as we go to pour ourselves a Captain Morgans rum into a large pineapple, give the prawns a poke on the BBQ with our chopsticks and stare longingly out over the beautiful clear Tiger filled waters of the Bay, we are content to say that there is one less unanswerable question in the universe and should you care to join us then the cocktails are cold and waiting and the Tiger sharks the most beautiful in the world.
Hope to see you swimming with our VERY OWN Aussie Tiger sharks soon!! ;b Cheers!!