Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 03-04-2009
The great white shark is certainly one of the most commonly feared creatures on the planet, and a history of great white shark attacks on humans is certainly part of the reason why. The fact is, the great white shark has attacked us on occasion, though it is much rarer than one might think. So what is the real deal with great white shark attacks?
The first thing you should remember is that the odds of being the victim of a great white shark attack is slim to none. According to the International Shark Attack File, from 1990 to 2007 there were 110 confirmed great white shark attacks worldwide. Of those great white shark attacks, only 23 of them were fatal shark attacks. Keep in mind that this is worldwide, and that the attacks are confirmed only. That said, there were surely great white shark attacks that were never reported due to lack of a body, or mistaken identity of the attacking sharks. Still, those numbers are quite telling.
A great white shark attack, according to those numbers, happens worldwide at a rate of about two per month on average. That sounds like alot, but keep in mind that this is in the entire world. That is rare indeed for the vast majority of us.
Location is another key factor in great white shark attacks. The vast majority of these attacks happened in four areas. The most common place for a great white shark attack is the west coast of the United States. After that, South Africa and Australia are the hot beds. Then finally a distant fourth is the Mediterranean. The only other place where great white shark attacks are remotely notable at all is New Zealand, though they are certainly rare there as well. The bottom line is that if you live and surf anywhere outside of these areas, your chances of great white shark attacks are virtually nill.
Even if you lived in the hotbed of great white shark attacks such as California, and you surfed every single day of your life, the odds are still quite slim that you would be attacked by a great white shark. White sharks are generally picky eaters. The vast majority of great white shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity, where the white shark mistakes us for a seal. Surfers in particular resemble the seal when the white shark attacks from below as they are known to do.
The numbers prove this fact quite clearly. The low numbers of fatal attacks in great white shark attacks is because the shark will often come up for an “exploratory” bite. A shark, of course, has no hands to explore potential prey. They use their mouths instead, and that is devastating to our fragile bodies. A great white shark attack is commonly one bite and done. We are not as fleshy or tasty as a blubber filled seal to the great white so they move on.
The bottom line is that unless we are the unluckiest person on the planet, we are not likely to ever encounter a great white shark. A great white shark attack is even more remote, and not something that we generally should worry about.