There are roughly 70 shark attacks per year in the entire world. In 2014, there were three deaths total.
From 2000 to 2011, there were 349 deaths from tipping TV sets, which averages out to a little more than 31 per year. You could argue that watching Shark Week is more dangerous than swimming with sharks.
That twisting of statistics aside, it’s fair to say that our fear of sharks doesn’t exactly match the evidence. We certainly don’t fetishize other scary things in the same way. Discovery Channel has yet to focus on my greatest fear by running a “Texting While Driving Week,” but I get it. Sharks create a very particular brand of anxiety, one which secretly titillates us, deep in our lizard brains. Jaws morphs it into a fixation, and the next thing you know, Shark Week is a cultural phenomenon.
That’s not to say I, Steve, am above it all. Not in the least. I’ve never moved faster in my life than when I was surfing in Australia, and a grey fin started slicing through the water just 100 feet away. My heart felt like it was going to rupture for the better part of an hour. But my fear doesn’t make me want to avoid sharks at all costs. I’m more like the dumb person in the classic Ian Edwards joke who keeps walking through the sharks’ living room. I’ve paid good money to go diving with sharks four different times. I’ve been scared each time, and I’ve left the water feeling ecstatic. I even donate to save sharks, though my donation is mostly just a ridiculous attempt to curry favor with great whites.
For now, I’ve got no plans to stop going in the ocean. Not because sharks are just “big, beautiful fish,” as this Vice writer asserts, but because they absolutely fascinate me… or maybe just because I’m not brave enough to watch them on TV.
With that being said, my colleague Keith has put together a list of ten places around the world you can visit to have your own underwater shark encounter.