Posted by Ian
"Anything can happen in the next half hour." Such was the promise, or more accurately the threat, gravely intoned at the start of every episode of Gerry Anderson’s classic aquatic puppet series Stingray.
Chances are the show did more to popularise the name of the eponymous underwater beast than the titular creature itself, certainly amongst people of a particular generation. But that was up until yesterday, when news broke of how the Australian naturalist Steve Irwin had been killed after receiving a lethal dose of poison from a stingray he was filming for one of his internationally famous daredevil television programmes.
Arguably his death, while a tragic one, was not to be wholly unexpected. After all, the man had made a career – and his name – out of cheating danger, be it grappling with hungry crocodiles or jousting with venomous snakes. Yet the actual news of his passing clearly had an impact not just amongst the media at large, but you, our users.
From the moment we broke the news on the homepage early yesterday morning, the level of interest it generated was enormous. It quickly became the most read item on the entire website, and remained that way for the rest of the day – indeed, as I write it’s repeating the same feat again today.
I have to confess that I was surprised at such a profound degree of curiosity in somebody who, as I saw it, never loomed that large in UK popular culture. The man’s appeal and his legacy clearly had a resonance in our shared subconsciousness, but I never got the impression of Irwin as a kind of natural history icon, or a much-loved emblem of derring-do, or (by dint of his penchant for dangling his baby in front of the jaws of a snapping alligator) much of a responsible role model.
Yet I guess we all love our heroes, and when bravery and tragedy combine it’s a mix that’s desperately hard to resist. We reflected your interest in the news by featuring a gallery of Irwin’s life yesterday afternoon, which we’ve included on the homepage again today. We’re also currently running a video revealing more about the habits of stingray. It confirms, were it any longer necessary, that the fearsome fish is far removed in character from its one-time good-natured small screen namesake.