Environment Forum

Toasters deadlier than sharks?

January 17, 2008

A shark swims at a German aquariumIt looks like a normal day at the beach — people sunbathing, children splashing in the water…until suddenly a woman looks out to sea and screams.

Something she saw in the distance causes a panic as terrified bathers rush to get back to the beach.

The video, on show at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town in South Africa, then shows a tell-tale fin.

But instead of a shark, it turns out to be merely a triangular edge of an old floating toaster bobbing in the water at an angle or, in another version of the video, part of the back of a chair.

Then comes the punchline as people lining the beach look fearfully out to sea — faulty toasters killed 791 people last year; sharks 9. Or in the other version, 592 people were killed by chairs, nine by sharks. And then the follow on — people kill 100 million sharks a year.

Situated right outside the shark tank in the aquarium, it’s very effective to show out skewed our perceptions of danger are. But I can’t shake off being more frightened of sharks than toasters.

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