Port Phillip Bay, a great basin of water around which the Australian city of Melbourne is built, has a slow clockwise current. Water from the Bass Strait enters the bay at the southern end through a narrow break called The Rip. On the eastern side of the bay the water forms eddies where a series of peninsulas disrupt the curve. This distribution of water creates the perfect conditions for predatory fish.
One inlet on the eastern side became known as Shark Bay.
In 1841, a businessman called Hugh Jamieson purchased 5,120 acres around Shark Bay from the Crown for £1 an acre.
As the land further along the bay was settled, the villages of Sorrento, Rosebud and Portsea grew popular as holiday destinations, and Shark Bay wilted.
Jamieson decided to act.
He did two things. First, he announced a cull, with a bounty of five pounds per shark – a huge sum in Australia in the mid-1800s – for each one caught and killed. He paid out a total of 35 pounds.
The publicity it generated set him up for his next, audacious move. He announced a change of name from Shark Bay to ‘Safety Beach’ (oh yes).
Safety Beach began to grow. The seven sharks’ jaws were prominently displayed at the beach front, a reminder to all bathers that this beach was now safe.
Jamieson eventually subdivided the land, sold it to developers and residents and made a huge profit.
Changing hard-wired perceptions requires dedication, action and expression – and sometimes a bit of chutzpah. I can’t say that I’d feel that relaxed walking past massive shark jaws to take a swim, but through the power of his actions and a 180-degree change in the brand name, Jamieson pulled it off.
PR, eh? Nothing is impossible.