In the West, the shark is viewed as the world’s greatest predator, and the shark tattoo a symbol of power and fearlessness. It’s been a long tradition among sailors to have a shark tattoo as proof you are not afraid of death at sea – and for protection. Western sailors, always a superstitious lot, regarded the shark as a kind of sea vulture, sniffing out imminent death and hanging around boats, waiting for a meal. If you spotted a shark following your ship, it was ominous, indeed. It could only mean one thing -- someone was about to die.
Polynesians also considered the shark to be a sacred animal. For them, the shark tattoo served to protect them from their enemies. A Polynesian fisherman would also sport tattoo symbols to protect him and his vessel from sharks in the waters where he fished. In Hawaii, you’ll hear about the protective power of the aumakua, a row of tattooed dots around the ankle that keep sharks at bay. Legend tells of a woman swimming in the ocean and being attacked by a shark -- until it saw the tattoo. It let go and promised it wouldn’t happen again!
However you look at the shark, whether it’s the ‘Great White’ made famous by Hollywood, or the sleek and beautiful creature that the Aborigines paint on sheets of bark, there’s no denying that its one of the most feared and respected creatures on earth.