The Real Risk of Shark Attacks While Scuba Diving

Last night I had a brief Twitter conversation with a few friends as a result of one of them posting this article, Abalone diver taken by great white sharks in Australia. It leads to the question:

What are the real risks of shark attacks while scuba diving?

As most of you know, I am an emerging diving fanatic.  As soon as I can get out of the States, I plan to head over to the Middle East and get my dive master certification in Dahab, Egypt.  If one is physically able to do so, I think everyone should give diving a chance.  It is simply amazing to see the world underwater.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-acweVOyjM

I also have come to love sharks. I have only seen a few underwater, but they are simply amazing creatures.  I tried to do a great white cage dive in Cape Town, but we had amazingly bad luck and only got to see on juvenile great white circle the boat for a minute or so.  I will do this again, for sure.

Yes, that is a baby great white.  The captain thought it was probably only a year old and laughed at how small it was.

Coincidentally, I am current reading Bill Bryson’s great new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, and as he is wont to do, he has an amazing number of trivial facts interspersed throughout.  The one that stuck in my mind in relation to your risks of dying was that one of the leading causes of death these days is… falling down stairs.  Tens of thousands of people around the world die each year falling down stairs and it is one of the most likely causes of accidental death, after being in a traffic accident.  Who knew?

As a culture, we tend to massively overrate risk. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in the United States to reduce the risk of dying in one of the rarest forms of death, by terrorism.  As Bryson points out, if we spent a small fraction of that money is making sure that every stairwell was done at the proper angle and with good handrails, we’d actually be saving vastly more lives…. but without the good headlines for politicians.

So what are your risks of dying in a shark attack while scuba diving?  Amazingly low.

From 1990-99, there were 38 shark attacks on divers…. worldwide.  From 2000-2009, the number was 34.  (Source).  About twenty percent of those attacks were fatal.

The broader shark attack numbers that just on divers are also amazingly rare.  There were 79 confirmed shark attacks on humans, worldwide, in 2010 and 63 attacks in 2009.  There were only 6 fatalities from shark attack in 2010 — sharks do not hunt humans and in the rare cases where they bite, then most often then move on.

The yearly average number of deaths from 2001-10 from shark attacks are 4.3 per year. (Source). The chance of a shark attack while scuba diving is almost nil.

You stand a much better chance of dying from food poisoning or choking by eating dinner at a 5 star restaurant.  So let’s talk about things that are truly more risky than getting attacked by sharks.

The National Safety Council has compiled various statistics regarding causes of death in the United States — remember this is just the United States and not worldwide.  The latest date I could find stats for was 2000, and here is your source.

Recall that 6 people died from shark attacks last year, worldwide.


In 2000, the following were the number of deaths just in the U.S.:

  • Animal rider or occupant of animal-drawn vehicle = 97
  • Fall involving bed, chair, other furniture = 650
  • Fall on and from stairs and steps = 1,307
  • Fall on and from ladder or scaffolding = 412
  • Fall on same level (no stairs) from slipping, tripping and stumbling = 565
  • Bitten or struck by dog = 26
  • Bitten or struck by other mammals = 65
  • Drowning and submersion while in or falling into bath-tub = 341
  • Drowning and submersion while in or falling into swimming-pool = 567
  • Drowning and submersion while in or falling into natural water = 1,135
  • Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed = 327
  • Inhalation and ingestion of food causing obstruction of respiratory tract = 744
  • Inhalation and ingestion of other objects causing obstruction of respiratory tract = 3,187
  • Ignition or melting of nightwear = 9
  • Ignition or melting of other clothing and apparel = 116
  • Contact with hot tap-water = 55
  • Exposure to excessive natural cold = 742
  • Lightning = 50

Yes, if you do not sleep naked every night, you run a better chance of dying than being killed by a shark.  And if you got on a ladder to clean the roof of your house or to take the angel off the Christmas tree — you are running a hell of a bigger risk of dying than scuba diving in a shark-infested area of the world.

What do all those causes of death have in common, as compared to dying by shark attack?  They don’t make for a good Steven Spielberg movie with a very snappy soundtrack.

While the U.S. has some of the best, and easiest to access, stats in this area, try some of these other countries on for size.

Number of cases of food poisoning in Australia = 5.4 million yearly.  Number of new daily cases of food poisoning in Australia = 11,500.  120 people die due to food poisoning each year in Australia. (Source).

The 20th most common cause of death in 2008 in Australia was…. falling down with 1,348 deaths. (Source).

And just to point out how small the relative risk of dying from shark attack while you are scuba diving, let’s quickly refresh one number.  The number of scuba divers that died from shark attacks in the decade of the 2000s appears to be 5 or so.

The number of professional cyclists who died during a race… please stop for a second and think about this.  How many professional bicyclists do you think there are (especially compared to how many scuba divers)?  And this is the stat of how many die…. during a race.  Not training.  Not cruising around town going to a friends house.  In a sanctioned and supervised race.  About 5 divers died in shark attacks in the 2000s and…

11 professional bicyclists died during races in the 2000s.  (Source, with races).

At least in my book, I’ll take my chances on sharks underwater.  And hopefully get some great photos and video in the meantime. And stay safe out there.

thailand underwater scuba blue plant

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

80 Responses to “The Real Risk of Shark Attacks While Scuba Diving” Subscribe

  1. MsNomadica February 18, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I totally agree, and it’s kind of the same thing with flying…certainly compared to automobile accidents and fatalities.

    Still, I’m not quite clear about the statistics you quote at the end. Did the 11 cyclists you mention die since the year 2000, or is it an average of 11 per year throughout the 2000s. Because if an average of 4.3 people died a year from shark attacks, that would be 47 people from 2000 through 2010.

    In any case, as I said, your premise is certainly correct. The statistics are absurdly low. I mean, even for people who don’t use stairs much, there’s still those dreaded bathroom accidents. And we all use those.

    • Michael Hodson February 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      A total of 11 pro bike riders died in races in the 2000s. A total of 5 divers died from shark attacks in the 2000s. If you expand out to just shark attacks in general (not just on divers) in the 2000s, the number would be more like 47 for the 2000s.

    • Douglas November 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

      Very interesting and entertaining article. I will share it with my wife. I am an avid snorkeler and spend a lot of time in the summer snorkeling in France with my two sons. We recently returned from a trip to Kauai where we snorkeled every day. We saw our first shark (a 5 foot white tip reef shark). And no, none of us were bitten. We were actually disappointed because the shark swam away so fast that we didn’t get much of a chance to watch it. My son did, however, get a nice photo of it. Anyway, this great snorkeling experience in Kauai has made my older son (who’s 12 yrs old) and me interested in getting our scuba certification (I live in San Francisco where there are many opportunities to do this). My wife won’t allow my son to take the course with me because she said that going deep is where all the sharks are (she can afford to lose me because we have a great life insurance policy). My reply has been that you are better swimming with the sharks than above them. Based on your article, I have suggested to my wife that instead of worrying about the scuba diving that we instead strongly consider selling our house (we live on a hill and have a large number of steps to navigate to get to the entrance) because that is our greatest risk so far. Every day we risk our lives when leaving the house, especially in the morning when we are all half asleep and trying to carry everything at once. And I forgot to mention that we do not have any railings!! Plus, the outlet that we plug our toaster into is not grounded.

      • Melody March 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

        Also, tell her that most sharks come in shallow to feed! It really is safer to be down, diving. You look way more foreign to them, than a shadow at the surface mimicking a seal or turtle!

  2. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler February 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Ugh!! I can’t even count how many times I get into this conversation with people! The worst is when people in San Diego say a great white was spotted so they are going to stop going in the water. I proceed to say, “The sharks have always been there, this is not a new discovery.” I also go on to tell them they are more likely to die in a car crash, so are they going to stop driving? It’s frustrating, but then again the less people in the water surfing the better for me, so maybe I should stop convincing people otherwise. ;)

    I had no idea about the stair death rate. I think I’m going to stop using stairs now.
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Hostal Naylamp in Huanchaco- Peru

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:26 am #

      if people ever got in a helicopter or airplane and flew over most beach areas, they’d be moritified at how many sharks are cruising within 100 yards of where they are swimming.

  3. rafael rodrigues February 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Contact with hot tap-water = 55

    who dies of hot tap water? Talk about a lame way to die.

    “So how did you lose your father?”
    ” Well he went to clean off his hand at the sink and he burned him self and died.”

    Anyways I would love to go diving, I bet the statistics on surfers would be higher as they look like seals to sharks.

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      True — surface activity, especially surfing, is actually a lot more dangerous than diving (in relation to shark attacks)

  4. Stuart February 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    Hey Michael, great post. While the statistics may go some way to dissuading the fear of some, as I mentioned, my fear is a totally irrational one.

    I think the concept of being “eaten alive” taps into a primal fear in our lizard brains and once you’ve taken that fear onboard, it’s a very difficult one to eject. For me, I got it courtesy of seeing Jaws as a child on the big screen. I didn’t go near the water for a year after that, and, as I mentioned on Twitter, it remains a major challenge for me.

    I’ve no problem on the surface – I’ll happily snorkel away and I’ve seen a very big shark from the surface while offshore windsurfing (something I’d prefer not to repeat) but the concept of being below the surface in the open ocean, even as I type this, makes me quite nauseous.

    It’s funny how fears are often drawn from the most unlikely of deaths. I’m petrified of sharks and don’t find flying an enjoyable experience at all, tho I’ve been stabbed, hit by a car and narrowly avoided being murdered in Laos last year, yet I still ride a motorbike and walk down the road without a second thought.

    It’s that damn lizard brain — and really, it doesn’t help being told that great whites don’t like the taste of people and most likely only take a bite. Really. That doesn’t help!
    Stuart recently posted..Cafe Bali on Laksmana- Seminyak

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:32 am #

      1 — you are a great spot for letting me cite you by name (after I asked, just to be clear to everyone reading).

      2 — I can’t believe I not only misspelled your name in the original post, but also your location. I am even more envious of you, now knowing you live in Indonesia.

      3 — I appreciate the irrational nature of the fear. I hope folks took this post as almost all of mine are — gentle poking that intends to enlighten a bit and amuse a bit. I certainly didn’t mean to discount anyone’s fears or call them silly, but just tried to put a little perspective into things. I also appreciate that you KNOW your fears are irrational. The first step to overcoming them. And since I need to do some diving in Indonesia….maybe I’ll get you out there. ;)

      4 — Damn, I hate to tell you this, give your fears…. but snorkeling is far more risky than diving for shark attacks, since you are on the surface (as I reflexively turn away and wince for possibly destroying your desire to snorkel).

  5. Gray February 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    I completely agree with Stuart:The fear of shark attack has little to do with statistical probabilities. It’s more about how horrifying that manner of death is: Being eaten alive by a wild animal is the most terrifying death scenario I can imagine. Is it more likely I’ll die from falling down stairs? Sure, but ask me which one I’d rather die from if I had a choice, and the stairs would win every time.
    Gray recently posted..My Three Year Blogiversary

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:34 am #

      Follow up post kicking around my head…. good and bad ways to die. LOL. Anything close to instant would be good in my mind. I much more fear getting some cancer that will eat me away for years than some shark severing a major artery and me bleeding out quickly. Damn…. so many posts…. so little time ;)

      • Al Howes July 18, 2012 at 8:33 am #

        Along with being eaten, burning to death is right up there on the top of the list of least favorite options. On the other hand, in bed with a wild woman or asleep, with no prior concerns that something was wrong, are on the top of the preferred option list:)

      • Al Horrigan July 18, 2012 at 8:43 am #

        Along with being eaten, burning to death is right up there on the top of the list of least favorite options. On the other hand, in bed with a wild woman or asleep, with no prior concerns that something was wrong, are on the top of the preferred option list:)

        • Michael Hodson July 25, 2012 at 2:58 am #

          Agree with you 100%. Wait, more than 100%

  6. Grace Lewis February 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    This is exactly the reality check I needed after the recent Ha Long accident. I used to be a flight attendant and was quite good at reasoning people’s fears away (you are more likely to die driving to the airport than on a plane.) I’ve been living in Saigon for a while now, though, and keep hearing about the ways people die – motorbike accidents, landmines, sleeping on a boat?? It’s been messing with my head. Thanks for putting it all in perspective and reminding me that staying at home isn’t going to keep me any safer than wandering around the world – or diving.
    Grace Lewis recently posted..Chúc Mừng Năm Mới

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      I read about that boat accident in Ha Long. Doesn’t surprise me that much – those are the real things that travelers should fear. Substandard buses/cars/boats that they hop on all the time. For all the bitching by some in the States about lawyers and regulations and such, one of the things that those bring to the system is… safety.

  7. Erica February 18, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Regardless, it is a much better way to go than saying you died of old age in your recliner?

    Shaun and I are looking to get SCUBA certified during our trip. Somehow sharks are the last thing on my mind.
    Erica recently posted..Throw yourself into Athens

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:59 am #

      Pretty sure we talked about this, but if we didn’t, you guys should consider the Bay Islands in Honduras for your certification. And google “whale sharks Bay Island” to see if you will be lucky enough to hit the high season for those magnificent creatures. And to the shark-afraid, no, they are not real sharks, but big fish. That do not attack.

  8. Mike February 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Interesting article. I went diving for the first time a few months ago but shark attack never even crossed my mind. It’s a scary thought but, as you point out, very rare. Now ignition or melting of nightwear – that’s scary. I don’t even know how that would happen.
    Mike recently posted..It’s the Journey Not the Destination

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 10:00 am #

      glad you tried diving out — hope you loved it as much as I do.

  9. Roy February 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Hey Michael, you should really check out this great documentary called Sharkwater (http://www.sharkwater.com)

    Sharks have been unnecessarily vilified. There are more elephant attacks than shark attacks each year. More people die from choking on baked beans each year than from shark attacks.
    Roy recently posted..How To Be An Awesome CouchSurfing Guest

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 9:59 am #

      I will check it out — thanks for sending it along!

  10. Audrey February 18, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    A very interesting post. Definitely check out the documentary Sharkwater if you haven’t already seen it. Do a check on how many people are killed by a falling coconut each year, it’s astonishing.
    Audrey recently posted..Pushing Prayer Wheels In Lhasa- Tibet

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 10:02 am #

      I saw those coconut numbers on various searches, but I couldn’t find a good authority for it. Would have loved to have used it though.

  11. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

    Diving is one of my most favorite things in life. I always say that I was a fish in a past life. I feel “home” when I’m under water. What a shame you didn’t get to go Great White shark cage diving. I did it and it was BEYOND incredible. I was on a high for a week.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Meet My Fiance- Lucas

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 10:03 am #

      I tried to. Went out on the boat for about 6 hours. Freezing. Saw that one juvenile shark in the video right when we got there, but never saw another, so no one got in the cage. When we got back to the hostel, the owner there said it was the only cage diving trip he had heard of in the last 5 years that got shut out. Will be back — can’t wait.

  12. Nicolas February 19, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    It’s always funny to compare these kinds of numbers, but you have to keep in mind that a lot more people taking the stairs or a hot bath everyday than there are diving in areas with great whites.
    But your point is right, people drive their cars thousands of kilometers a month, in different states of mind (stressed, drunk, …) without thinking about the consequences but they don’t go into the water because there has been one shark attack some time ago.
    If you start thinking about the dangers that are waiting behind each corner, you’ll probably never leave the house. And even then there will be a reasonable chance that your house collapses because of an earthquake, storm or carbomb.
    Nicolas recently posted..5 reasons why chicken buses are an awesome way of transport

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Yep, these are just absolute numbers, not rates. That does make a big difference. Then again, the number of people that swim in the ocean is pretty high, so the general shark attack numbers have pretty good statistical significance (especially compared to the number of people that die horseback riding and in activities like that, where the usage rate is low).

      And I couldn’t agree with your last sentiment any more. If we didn’t manage to overcome our fears, we’d never leave the house… and die falling down the stairs. ;)

  13. Ayngelina February 19, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    I think the most dangerous thing for a tourist to do is cross the street. Sharks are the least of my worries.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Are you ready for bigger- bolder bacon goodness

    • Michael Hodson February 19, 2011 at 10:08 am #

      Various forms of auto accidents are the most dangerous, whether in the car or being hit by one. I am going to soon do a post on how inadvisable it is to ride in the front of a bus also.

  14. Marsha February 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Death comes to all of us sooner or later. I have a mild to moderate fear of flying but I do it anyway because the desire to travel trumps the fear (I know you’ll disagree that flying’s the only way to travel but just stay with me here). I figure I can die in the car on the way to work far more easily, but I would rather die doing something I love. Life is much too short to live any other way.
    Marsha recently posted..A Single Snapshot- Life is Beautiful

    • Michael Hodson February 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Awww heck. I do fly occasionally, just as little as possible. Not out of any fear of flying, but I think if you have time to travel overland, it is far better for the environment and a much more interesting way to travel. Then again, I am slightly odd.

  15. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures February 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I think this argument extendeds far beyond just sharks. If you watch the news, you kind of get this feeling that the world is some horribly dangerous place, when, as anyone who’s traveled knows, that simply isn’t true. When I have friends who live in New York City telling me that I need to be super careful in China (despite them never having left North America…) I wonder where they get this impression from, as I’d be willing to bed that there are places in New York that are far more dangerous than 99% of the places I visited!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Phallus Alert- Fertility Blessings in Bhutan!

    • Roy February 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

      Funny, because when I first left New Zealand to spend the summer in NYC, my friends said to “be careful in America. they carry guns” ;)
      Roy recently posted..How To Be An Awesome CouchSurfing Guest

      • Michael Hodson February 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

        Heck Roy, there are certainly more than a handful of American cities that I’d feel a LOT more unsafe in than some of the places dubbed “unsafe” to travelers, for sure!

  16. Ken Kaminesky February 20, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Death by stupidity is always my favourite. Stupidity is universal, it can happen in any country, on land or water, affecting men and women.

    Here are a ton of great examples:

    http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/

    As for worrying about stuff and being “safe”, I’ll let Mark Twain comment:

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
    Ken Kaminesky recently posted..My National Geographic Cover Photo – Notre Dame de Paris

    • Michael Hodson February 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      I have looked through those Darwin awards a few times — they are classic. Have heard some reports that not all of them are true every year, but a blast to read nonetheless.

  17. Chris February 20, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    What this analysis fails to account for is 1) the variation in degree of exposure and 2) the relative health of the exposed populations. How many of those deaths down the stairs were on the part of the a) elderly, or b) intoxicated? How many more persons a day are boiling water or ascending/descending stairs than are in close enough proximity to be attacked by a shark? On the face of it, since most of the time people are out of the water, 1970s SNL skits aside, shark attacks aren’t a threat. When weighing the potential danger of some activity or situation, we ought control for these variables at a minimum before making this analysis. This isn’t to say that your ultimate conclusion is wrong, just to suggest that a deeper analysis needs to be made before you should feel comfortable drawing it.

    • Michael Hodson February 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

      Well, not like I posited this as any conclusive study, but look at some of the numbers. Not just elderly or children ride animals (I assume mostly horses). In fact, I’d posit that fewer people do that than swim in oceans with sharks nearby, but far more people die from horseback riding than shark attacks.

      As to the stair numbers, I’d bet you’d be surprised. Bryson looked (more in depth than me) into U.K. stair fall numbers (the last year they did full stats in the U.K. was 2002, so these numbers are from those). Some of the facts and analysis: 306,166 Britons were injured seriously enough in stair falls to seek medical attention. Stairs are the 2nd most common cause of accidental death, well behind car accidents, but far ahead of drowning, burns, etc. The vast majority of deaths on stairs are elderly, but still a substantial percentage of non-elderly (few children die on stairs, suprisingly), accounting for about 20% of the deaths.

      As to the other stats I pulled, not sure there is going to be any huge age factor in the various drowning, suffication, or food related deaths, but perhaps.
      Michael Hodson recently posted..Traveling and Dying — the Real Risks in Life

  18. Juan February 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    This point of risk perception among is so intriguing. It’s really interesting how the whole fractional reserve banking system is only safe to the degree that the masses think that the banks are safe. But, that system has worked for many years so probably we will keep on using it though it isn’t always the most stable system.
    Juan recently posted..2 Great places to Go in Puerto Rico

  19. Margo February 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    I know in general stories in the media about shark attacks are hugely overplayed. However what I’ve noted living in a popular beach resort area is the degree to which the media goes to to downplay any signs of trouble along the beaches or in the water. The one time living here that there was a shark “attack” they avoided calling it an attack, instead called it a “bite.” Almost defensively they made it a point to repeat over and over that the “bite” may have been the doing of a school of testy bluefish…. that, btw, are much more likely to bother “biting” a human than a shark.Riptides are much more dangerous and the local media does do an excellent job covering this, because these pose a real threat. Also I’ve seen people suffer from wicked man-o-war encounters, broken glass on the beach, but Speilberg hasn’t made a movie about these things, and no body dies, so it doesn’t hold any appeal on a grand media scale.
    Margo recently posted..When Home May Be the Most Beautiful Place on Earth

  20. Amanda February 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Love this! I did a similar post when the U.S. issued a travel alert to Europe a while back due to “increased risk” of terrorism. What bullshit. I pointed out a lot of similar things – that you’re far more likely to get struck by lightening, for instance, than die in a terrorist attack. Or that you’re MUCH more likely to die driving to work or falling in the shower than in some obscure way, like being attacked by a shark.

    I guess because it’s so violent it’s deemed more scary? I dunno.

    I’m with you – I love sharks. I actually just attempted to go cage diving with sharks in Hawaii about 2 weeks ago. But unfortunately there were no sharks to be seen. Will definitely do it someday, though.
    Amanda recently posted..The Things I Learned in Hawaii

  21. Theodora February 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    There’s a fascinating book called, imaginatively enough, Risk, which deals with how we mis-process statistics and risk, of which the risks of flying versus the risks of driving is one stellar example.

    One thing I think that could be considered here, though, is that once you get a rogue shark — as with the one that attacked two Russian tourists in Dahab last year — with a taste for human flesh the risks do vastly increase.

    So, yeah, risks from sharks in general very low. Risk of going into the water where there’s a critter that has already attacked and hasn’t been caught? High…
    Theodora recently posted..Temple Monkeys- The Devil’s Work

  22. Brooke vs. the World February 21, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Yeah, haven’t been diving yet *sigh* but I do worry about sharks. For there not being that many deaths from sharks, it does seem that people in Oz get bit more often than other countries. Or at least it is more publicized. And, combined with a crazy fear of just not really knowing what is under the water… yeah that’s creepy… even if irrational ;)
    Brooke vs. the World recently posted..Day 52- Thinking Cool Thoughts- A Winter Photo Tour from Ukraine

  23. Gretchen February 21, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    Nice commentary, Michael. I’ve been diving since 1986. My shark encounters have been few and non-threatening, including the “dreaded” hammerheads. I can’t speak for the great whites as I don’t believe I’ve ever been followed by one. Then again, maybe they saw me and I just didn’t see them… I also haven’t been diving where great whites are common. Regardless, as I’ve gotten older, I’m more concerned about what I can’t see when I’m swimming on the surface without a mask and snorkel. When decked out in tank and reg, I’m comfortable – looking like a floundering seal at the surface is much more bothersome. Very little keeps me out of the water and the possibility of a shark may be in the vicinity isn’t one of them. Then again, my mask and snorkel are my best friends even floundering like a seal.

  24. Cailin February 21, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    I’ve always said that I would be fine with getting bit by a shark just to get a cool scar and great story to tell people. I think people are the most freaked out by shark attacks because of all of those other causes of death it is the most gruesome and uncontrollable.
    However you now have me extremely scared to ever walk down a flight of stairs again…. thanks for that…. haha
    Cailin recently posted..Favorite Film Friday 004

  25. Maria Pavel February 22, 2011 at 4:17 am #

    Well the numbers don’t lie and there is a bigger chance that I die falling on and from a ladder or scaffolding. But I prefer that kind of death to a death where I am being attacked by a shark :)

    Maria
    Maria Pavel recently posted..Salaries Of Certified Nursing Assistants

  26. Annie February 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    This post came up in one of my conversations the other day, so I thought I should share that useless bit of information with you! ;)

    No but in all honesty, you make some very good and very smart points here and it’s unfortunate that it’s built into our human nature to be so afraid of so many things. I try not to let fear hold me back but there are a few things that I see as more reckless than worth it for me (namely motorcycles) I don’t know why, I have no problem with scooters but motorbikes are just completely undesirable to me.

    That said, my fear of sharks doesn’t usually do much more than give me a shiver and make me pull my legs up onto my surfboard, the way you pull your feet on top of the bed when you are afraid of the monsters underneath (back as a kid of course…).

    These stats are real eye-openers for travelers, and they are fun to share!
    Annie recently posted..Sardinia Day 2- Carloforte

  27. Christy @ Technosyncratic February 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Ha, I KNEW I was justified in never wearing clothes! Wearing pajamas is clearly akin to signing your own death warrant, so I’m starting a “ban the flannel” crusade.

    Who’s with me?
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo of the Week- View of Mt Rainier at Sunset

  28. Andrea February 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    I stupidly slipped on some stairs the other day so I believe this. Though we missed the Christchurch earthquake by only a week so I felt more shaken up about that. These stats put things in perspective.
    Andrea recently posted..South America 2011 Preview

  29. Rease February 27, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    I have more issues with air supply than sharks. It’s just the scary thought of slowly running out of air that freaks me out. Nice research though, point taken.
    Rease recently posted..Attack of the Mexican Bee

    • Michael Hodson February 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

      the air supply thing is interesting. One of the things you need to do in the certification process is ascend from 20 meters to the surface (very slowly) with no air. Your instructor holds your air regulator as you go up. Because of the logistics of how air expands as you go up, you can actually go up to the surface with no air very easily.

  30. Matt | YearAroundTheWorld February 28, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    Thanks for the great statistics! I find it hilarious when people complain about the possibility of shark attacks.

    My new line for them: “You are over 5 times more likely to die from contact with hot tap water than you are from a shark”
    Matt | YearAroundTheWorld recently posted..A Central American Cockfighting Experience

    • Michael Hodson August 3, 2011 at 12:17 am #

      watch out for hot water!

  31. Rebecca March 9, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    I’m certainly going to be more careful around stairs now! ;-)
    Rebecca recently posted..Photo of the Week- Santa Monica Beach- Los Angeles

  32. Dina March 25, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    Agreed. We love scuba diving and about to take the open water PADI course here in Roatan Honduras. Of course we don’t want to be the very unlucky people that get bitten by the scary kinds of shark, but we will be really thrilled to see some (perhaps not the dangerous kind). It will be superb!
    Dina recently posted..Woken by explosions at 5 am in Honduras

    • Michael Hodson August 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

      Ahhhh, Roatan is such a good place to learn how to dive. Enjoy!

  33. Erin April 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    What about statistics on shark bites that do not kill? Those are relatively low, too, aren’t they?
    Erin recently posted..My favorite restaurants in Puerto Viejo

    • Michael Hodson August 2, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

      Yep — almost non-existent, both in diving and non-diving really.

  34. Steph October 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    It’s funny, I’m terrified of scuba diving, the very idea just makes me feel panicked- but it’s not because I think a shark is going to make me lunch. In fact I love snorkeling, but the idea of being full submerged far far underwater brings out some sort of previously undiagnosed claustrophobia. Not sure how to get rid of that!

  35. Merav @ AllWays NZ Car Rental October 4, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Though my mind agrees with your analysis, I would still stay on shore then going into the deep blue. A fault in my design but at my age I have come to terms with it ;-)

  36. Laurel October 6, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    As a fellow diver so glad to see an article that the risk of a shark attack is very low. I’ve dived in Cocos (island off the coast of Costa Rica) with 80 hammerheads and in the Galapagos with hundreds of hammerheads, silkies and Galapagos sharks, and even a few whale sharks. I’ve always felt very relaxed and feel privledged to have the opportunity to see sharks in their natural habitat.
    Laurel recently posted..My Favorite Room in the Munich Residenz

  37. Kang Jajat October 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Looking at the statistics of the number of deaths above, deaths resulting from animal attacks are still small. In my country, Indonesia, I have not heard the news about shark attacks on the coast of Indonesia, but that does not mean the coast of Indonesia does not keep the potential dangers, we must be vigilant.
    Thank you for the information, Michael. Sorry, my comment might not be good according to the American spelling.
    Kang Jajat recently posted..Air Shark

    • Michael Hodson November 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

      Your comment is perfectly fine! Thanks for finding the blog and hope you keep reading.

  38. Cameron October 15, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    I am also an interested scuba diver and just returned from doing 2 dives on the great barrier reef in Cairns.

    However, your logic regarding the statistics is flawed. You can’t possibly compare the risk of scuba diving compared to those other risks, simply because even diving enthusiasts don’t dive as often as they sleep, take a bath or walk past a dog in the street (or whatever).

    If the entire population of the U.S. was diving seven days a week all year round (like they sleep, eat, walk up stairs, whatever), I can virtually guarantee you that deaths-by-scuba-diving-accidents or even shark attacks would top the list, probably by orders of magnitude.

    That being said, the risk is still small and worth the experience.

    • Michael Hodson November 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

      the stats are what they are — there aren’t perfect stats on how people die in other ways also, though the attack by shark attack numbers are pretty accurate, since they get reported. What you are missing is that the risk of shark attacks at ALL, whether diving or swimming (which millions and millions of people do every year in the oceans) are almost nil. When you take into effect the almost non-existence of even shark attacks on swimmers and surfers and such… the point is made.

  39. Justin November 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Let’s say 10 million people worldwide go scuba diving each year (a generous estimate from what little info I could find online). If there were an average of 3.4 shark attacks on scuba divers worldwide and you multiply that by 700 (the number you’d need to multiply 10 million by to reach the overall world population of 7 billion) then that would be the equivalent of something that affected 2380 people worldwide. Still seems like a very small number…

    However, we have to ask ourselves, how many hours does the average scuba diver spend in the water each year? Let’s assume the average is 2 dives of 45 minutes each, totaling 3 hours per year. Yes some, do way more than that, but probably most do less.

    So, 3 hours X 10 million would equal 30 million scuba hours logged worldwide each year. Therefore we have an average of 3.4 attacks per 30 million hours. That works out to 1 shark attack every 8,823,529 hours. Still seems way small right?

    But here’s the thing, if you also multiply the total number of hours in a year (8765) by the total world population (7 billion) you get 61,355,000,000,000 hours. Then divide that by the total number of any of the life threatening injuries that could happen at any hour of the day and see how it stacks up with the 1 per 8,823,529 ratio.

    I know this is a very protracted comment and I know my numbers are probably off but the point is, while the risk is still low, it’s not as low as you may think, relatively speaking.

  40. Dan Thompson February 16, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    Good write up… I’ve often told people you were more likely to be attacked by a shark while swimming then while diving and according to your numbers it looks like that is definitely the case. The commentor above me makes a good point in that it all depends on your perspective. I’d be interested in seeing another point though… how many of those attacks (diving) occured when the water HADNT been chummed up… The behavoir most people see of sharks on TV is simply not the behavior they exude under normal, non-feeding frinzy, circumstances. The times I’ve seen sharks while diving, they’ve always been very calm and uninterested… but that doesn’t make good TV.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Dan

  41. mlb March 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    If you want to scuba dive with sharks then go to the shark infested waters of the bahamas. I did the week long live aboard that sailed through the exumas. Plenty of sharks to see and dive with. I filmed quite a few and posted the videos to my face book site. The sharks were curious but left us alone. They were very aggressive for the feeding dive. I never felt like I was going to be attacked but kept my eyes open as they were everywhere. They were 5-7 foot carribean reef sharks (black tip sharks). Search Drbleeker on facebook and check out the videos. It was a great trip if you like to rough it. if you a five star resort diver the accomodation may not meet your expectations.

  42. Ryan March 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Your stats really don’t make any sense. Almost every single one of those activities is far more common than scuba diving. Of course more people die on stairs than by a shark attack, how many people per year use the stairs vs go scuba diving?

    Stairs are used billions and billion of times per year in the US. Come on now. It is like when people say you are more likely to die from a car crash than a plane crash. Well of course, there are millions upon millions of cars in use in the US every day vs thousands of planes.

    (I liked your article and am interested in the topic, but the statistical data was not really relevant is all I’m saying).

  43. al dickman May 22, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    I appreciate that shark attacks are very rare, but it would be foolish to ignore the risk. For me it’s like wearing a seat belt – you never know so why take the risk?

  44. James Harris June 22, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Fellow Scuba Diver…. Awesome Article!!! Awesome News!!! Thank You…. Happy Diving!!! “LETS GO DOWN!!!”

  45. Deron August 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    I have been a scuba diver for nearly 20 years and have always contended to my friends that divers are almost never attacked. Thanks for confirming that with this article, which I will now show my best friend whom I have been trying to convince to become a diver (but he has irrational fear of sharks).

    Also, love the logo on your blog…a bit like me…traveling with my laptop and cigar in mouth.

    :-)

    Cheers,

    Deron

  46. minoo September 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    is Egypt in middle-east really!?

  47. Lou May 14, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Although I agree with the sentiment the statistics on safety are a bit misleading. The stats assume the entire population of the u.s., not just those engaged in diving. If you only use the subset of those that dive and the number of shark attacks, the risk greatly increases, although probably acceptable to most rational people.

    • Michael Hodson May 16, 2013 at 3:09 am #

      The stats are rates, not absolutes.

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