Little is known about the geographic ranges of sharks across oceans all over the world. However, their movements have been linked to feeding, reproduction, or seasonal changes in their environment. Contrary to what most people think, not all sharks are dangerous. Only a few species, such as the great white shark, bull shark, tiger shark, and oceanic whitetip shark, have been involved in fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans.
The International Shark Attack File 2021 report confirmed a total of 112 cases of shark bites worldwide in 2021, of which 73 were unprovoked shark bites on humans, and 39 provoked bites. ISAF also revealed that 51 percent of victims of shark bite incidents were surfing or engaging in water sports, 39 percent were swimmers and beachgoers, 4 percent were snorkelers and divers, and 6 percent were bodysurfers.
Before you get into any water for a swim or to surf, you may want to know that there are dangerous regions in the oceans where sharks like to hang out more frequently and in large numbers. We bring to you 5 shark-infested waters to avoid at all costs!
Shark Alley, South Africa
South Africa is a hotspot for unprovoked shark attacks, with a record of 255 attacks and 54 life losses between 1580 and 2018. Gansbaai town, located on the western cape of South Africa, has a surprisingly large great white shark population – so much that it is referred to as the ‘Great White Capital of the World.’ Dyer Island near Gansbaai earned the nickname “Shark Alley” for the many species of sharks in the water, especially great white sharks.
The thin stretch of sea channel between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock contains so many notorious and visually intimidating great white sharks, who spend their time stalking Geyser rock, the home to over 50,000 seals. Though many visitors come to Gansbaai for shark cage diving to watch the great whites in action, people are not allowed to swim legally or free dive outside the cage with great white sharks. Marine Coastal Management would never give a permit for this purpose, and in recent years, only film crews for documentaries or research have been issued permits.
Pacific Ocean; Site of USS Indianapolis
Only a few historical events are as horrifying as the story of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis in the Pacific, which led to the deadliest shark attack of all time. It all started with the USS Indianapolis being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine towards the end of World War 2, leaving the 1,195 men on board stranded. In an unfortunate turn of events, 300 crew members went down with the ship while the remaining 890 faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks.
The Pacific Ocean was described as turning red while survivors watched as hundreds of their crewmates were eaten alive by sharks. The USS Indianapolis attacks were attributed to the oceanic whitetip shark species and tiger sharks. On 19 August 2017, several decades later, a search team located the ship’s wreckage in the Philippine Sea at a depth of approximately 18,000 ft (5,500 m).
Great White Café, Baja California/Hawaii
The world’s largest congregation of great white sharks is at a seemingly mysterious spot in the middle of the Pacific ocean, popularly called the “Great White Café.” Halfway between Baja California and Hawaii, the area was discovered by Marine researchers at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine station studying great white sharks using satellite tracking tags.
The researchers observed that these otherwise coastal great white sharks head to the area from diverse habitats along the North American coast during winter and spring for reasons that are a near complete mystery. They typically take up to 100 days to arrive while traveling at around 1 m/s (3.3 ft/s), during which they make periodic dives as deep as 3,000 feet (910 m). While at the Café, they dive to depths of 1,500 feet (460 m) as often as once every ten minutes.
However, much is unknown about their behavior because observing them in the Café is quite difficult. Not only as a result of the remote location of the Café but also because the sharks tend to dive thousands of feet below the water surface at regular intervals. One great white shark is terrifying enough, so imagine being surrounded by a large group of animals with giant mouths and razor-sharp teeth – you don’t even want to imagine!
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Florida has more shark attacks each year than any other region in the world, with the most confirmed shark bites occurring in Volusia County, home to New Smyrna Beach. According to ISFA, there have been 895 shark attacks in the state from 1882 to 2021, of which 28 attacks occurred in 2021 – 17 of them were from Volusia County alone. Sharks have attacked more people off New Smyrna than in other places in the world – hence it has been dubbed “The Shark Bite Capital of the world.” It may have to do with the fact that New Smyrna is recognized as one of the world’s top 20 surf towns, where you’ll find the most consistent waves on the east coast of the United States. This makes it a popular beach resort town in Florida, attracting many vacationing beach goers. This, combined with the murkiness of the shark-infested waters, creates a disaster waiting to happen.
The waters of New Smyrna Beach contain a large population of tiger sharks, spinner sharks, and blacktip sharks, known to attack humans by accident and bump into them from the waves. While there’s a high chance that you could swim or surf in these shark-infested waters every day and not get attacked, you might still want to think twice before heading out into New Smyrna Beach.
Farallon Islands, San Francisco
Nicknamed “The Devil’s Teeth,” Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco is a 211-acre cluster of rocky, jagged islands that are not just a familiar sight for Bay Area beachgoers but are also home to some of the largest great white sharks in the world. These islands (Southeast Farallon and Maintop Island) are infested with adult great white sharks measuring 15 to 20 feet (4.5 meters to 6.1 meters) long -making them one of the most dangerous islands in the world.
These formidable sharks come to the Farallones from September to November to feed on the seal and sea lion population. In the New York Times, underwater filmmaker Ron Elliott documented his encounters in the shark-infested waters of the Farallones. He described how he was bitten by a 17-foot female shark, nearly losing his right hand and forearm. This proves that it takes only a true adventure seeker to explore the undersea world of San Francisco’s Farallon Islands, a feat described as the “Mount Everest of shark dives.”
More from A-Z Animals
The Featured Image
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.