A fear of sharks is known as galeophobia, a condition that might be growing more widespread as media stories about shark attacks seem to be getting more frequent. Highlighted by the unsettling live video footage of professional surfer Mick Fanning getting attacked during the J-Bay Open event in South Africa, this summer produced an endless stream of media reports that seemed to point to a troubling trend of aggressive shark behavior. Heck, we were even subjected to the third offering as part of the Sharknado movie series.
Now, let’s be clear here – none of the reported attacks have been fatal. In fact, shark attack deaths are extremely infrequent, with many seemingly mundane activities bringing about a higher death toll. There were 15,000 deaths identified as being caused by cycling between 1990 and 2009, a period that produced just 14 shark attack fatalities. Even lightning strikes have been statistically known to kill 40 people annually, far exceeded the death rate for shark-related mishaps. Shark attacks have increased in sheer numbers over the years, but have actually decreased proportionally in relation to a growing population.
In reality, sharks have little interest in feasting on humans. Beyond population numbers, increases in attacks have come as a result of more people finding their way onto beaches and into oceans. For those who find themselves swimming far off the coast and in deep, shark-infested waters, you are occupying territory that belongs to them. If they decide to approach, it’s borne more out of a curiosity over a foreign presence than any vicious intent. Even when it comes to shark encounters, exploratory bites are far more common than attempts by sharks to devour human prey.
It’s understandable that it would be of little comfort for most people to know that most shark bites are more exploratory in nature than malicious. After all, a shark sighting is going to be downright frightening for a swimmer regardless of the shark’s intent. Armed with speed, power and sharp, jagged teeth, sharks offer a destructive enough force that any of the approximate 60 attacks every year have the potential to be deadly. The good news is that shark attacks happen to be quite preventable. Aside from staying near the shore when wading into the ocean, simple, easy measures like avoiding fishing areas and holding off swimming with open wounds can help, as can staying out of the water at night. If you do encounter a shark, do your best to stay calm, try to maintain eye contact and then back away slowly.
That being said, you still don’t want to find yourself in the crosshairs of a hungry, blood-thirsty shark. These 10 people couldn’t prevent shark encounters, but their crazy survival stories offer hope that you can live to tell the tale even after being in the presence of a Great White. Here are the remarkable stories behind 10 terrifying shark attacks and the lucky folks that survived the traumatic ordeals.