Duelling with sharks: a game played by Kiribati traditional fishermen Articles

For those studying Cambridge (UK) O’level syllabus in Literature from the 1960s through to the 1980s’ they would be very familiar with a prescribed text book “ Pattern of Islands” by Arthur Grimble, a British colonial administrator who, while serving in the 1920s, fell in love with the Gilbert islands’ (now Kiribati) simple, down to earth and close to nature way of life, so much so that he found himself spending more time wondering how the people he was supposed to protect in the name of the British monarch had managed to survive the invariably harsh and tough elements of a barren island in the hot sun surrounded by an open sky and sea than doing his administrative task so much so that he had to spend much time collecting materials often by allowing himself to go down to the level of “natives” just to have a first hand experience of such an exotic and unique way of life.

One of the things he found and admired was the courage and toughness of the men when it came to a time for them to cross beyond their terrestrial boundary and enter the marine domain of sharks where they demonstrated their superiority over them. Grimble gave an account of a man who played duel with a giant shark which killed itself on the sharp pointed end of the fisherman’s knife which physically sliced its way along the shark’s belly as it dashed forward to devour the fishermen just as the fisherman had dodged the line of attack and firmly held out his knife perpendicular to the direction the shark was attacking at enormous speed. Grimble observed and concluded that these men were not afraid of sharks as they regarded them as like playing mates in the sea.