After watching hours upon hours of Shark Week (admit it, we all do it), it’s only natural to start wondering about the dangers of Discovery Channel’s annual programming. Like, has anyone actually died while filming Shark Week?
Yes, I know mosquitos kill more people each year than the underwater predator and sharks don’t actually like eating humans. However, putting yourself into a cage to swim alongside sharks is not the safest situation. After a little bit of research, I’m proud to announce that there are no deaths attributed to Shark Week, but there have been more than a few close calls.
And when you remember that the concept of Shark Week was written on a cocktail napkin by Discovery Channel employees who were “lightly” inebriated, according to executive producer Brooke Runnette, a zero death toll is really quite impressive.
So, let’s look back at all the brave souls who almost lost their lives for our viewing pleasure. And no, you won’t find Michael Phelps on this list.
Guy Fieri’s near-fatal dive.
The Food Network star was featured in the Shark Week Special Guy’s Feeding Frenzy. However, it wasn’t the shark Guy needed to be worried about, but instead his air supply. Another diver noticed Guy’s air supply leak and alerted the reality star — who quickly responded, “Holy Cow.”
Luckily for everyone, Guy was able to reach the surface before running out of oxygen, but could be seen gasping for air in footage obtained by Yahoo.
Shark attacks biologist Erich Ritter!
In 2002, Erich Ritter was bitten in the leg while filming Shark Week. The footage was eventually used the following year in a special titled, Anatomy of a Shark Bite. However, he doesn’t blame the shark for his injury. “Humans are not part of any of the more than 400 shark species’ diets,” he told The New York Times. “We hope that as we tell these stories, people hear the real message — the victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
This film crew needed a bigger boat.
Experts Jeff Kurr and Andy Casagrande, who were filming in the tiny dinghy, learned the hard way that it might not be the smartest time to attempt to fit a video camera on the shark’s dorsal fin. In footage captured by the Discovery Channel, the guys onboard can be heard predicting their seemingly doomed fate more than once. “It’s a little nerve-racking being in a boat no bigger than the size of the shark. The shark is actually bigger than our boat,” one said before another added, “I don’t think this is such a brilliant f–king idea you know.” #TeamShark on this one.
Shaq meets shark.
The former NBA star’s segment was cut short when a shark made its way into his cage. On this year’s Shaq Does Shark Week, a diver noticed a shark getting too close for comfort and shouted, “There’s a shark getting in the cage! There’s a shark in the cage! We’ve got to get him out.” The crew was able to distract the shark and get the seven-foot-one-inch player to safety.
And Shaq handled the near-death experience pretty well, telling the camera, “I survived a shark attack, you b—h.”
When a crocodile attacks on Shark Week.
Marine biologist Melissa Marquez was filming a segment called Cuba’s Secret Shark Lair when she was bitten by a (plot twist) crocodile. Luckily, she only suffered minor injuries, but viewers were definitely surprised by the on-camera attack. “Tell me why you don’t immediately get out of the water when you see an 11-ft croc? Bad enough swimming with sharks, can’t be surprised something bites you,” one fan tweeted. Another agreed, jokingly adding, “When the crocs get jealous that they don’t have their own week.”
Melissa recounted the experience on her own Twitter page, writing, “Got bit + dragged by a 10 ft (3 m) croc and all I got were these scars. Today all wounds have healed (finally!), bruising gone, + can walk w/o (much) pain.” #Blessed.
“Great White Nearly Bites Guy’s Head Off”
That is literally the title for the Discovery Channel clip of a shark sneaking up on diver Chris Fallows while he was filming in the waters of New Zealand. Chris’ reaction to the shark that was two-feet away from his face, “That was f–king close.” You can say that again.
The untold story of a Shark Week cameraman.
When asked about his most scary moment involving Shark Week, Andy Casagrande (who was also on that small boat we mentioned above) recounted a incident while filming the 2010 Into the Shark Bite — even though he hates telling the story.
“I was essentially running out of air, and I had to go to the surface, and I was out of the cage with great whites. Like I said, if you swim away from them, they pursue you. I was breaking my own rule of don’t act like prey or they’ll treat you like prey,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I saw this little shark — little as in, like, a 10-footer — coming up at me, and I saw its little white chin wagging. It was accelerating toward me. I’m like… uh, holy s–t. I just relied on my standard instinct of using the camera, keeping the camera between me and the shark. The shark came up with its mouth open, and as I finned back, it sort of went past me and I hit it on the side on its gills.”
He continued, “They don’t really know any better, and they’re really curious. But when a great white shark is curious, it can be catastrophic.”
Not all (Shark Week) heroes wear capes.