Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Diving with Sharks Works


How to Avoid Unsightly Teeth Marks

We said it before, and we'll say it again: Shark attacks are rare, but they do happen. The majority of times an attack occurs, it's a case of mistaken identity; for instance, a shark might confuse the flash of a piece of jewelry for the shiny scales of a fish. When the shark attacks, it quickly realizes that the human it has bitten into is not nearly as tasty as the fish it was hoping for, and it will let the person go and swim away. Called "hit-and-run" attacks, these types of run-ins usually result only in relatively minor lacerations for the diver [source: Burgess].

Divers can take precautions to avoid these mistaken attacks. In addition to ditching the shiny jewelry, try to avoid bright colors on your wetsuit or gloves [source: Burgess]. When you do see a shark, remain calm and hold your position. Too much erratic movement might agitate the shark and encourage it to attack. As long as the shark is swimming in a very fluid and smooth pattern, then you're fine. It is only when the shark begins making jerky movements that you know it is becoming a bit unsettled.

If you should find yourself in the very unenviable position of being attacked, there are some steps that you can take to protect yourself and get out of the situation. The most important thing to remember is to fight back; remaining still will not deter an attacking shark. If you have a spear or a long pole, use it to poke the animal in the nose, eyes or gills. All are very sensitive areas for the shark and hitting them will allow you time to leave the area. If the shark does appear to leave, then slowly swim to the surface, all the while keeping your eye on the shark in case it decides to turn back to you [source: Burgess].

While cage diving is much safer than free diving, accidents do happen. In 2007, a shark-diving company left the bait too close to the cage, and a shark got caught in the bars. In the shark's struggle to free itself, one of the walls of the cage was destroyed [source: ABC News video]. In the end, no one was injured, but it does highlight the fact that, much like riding a bike or driving a car, no activity is 100 percent safe.

We've talked a lot about the divers. Read on to find out how diving affects the sharks themselves.


More to Explore