QUESTION: WHEN ENCOUNTERING ONE OR SEVERAL SHARKS IN THE OPEN OCEAN, ARE YOU SAFER AS A SNORKELER OR AS A SCUBA DIVER?
Assume that you are not in immediate danger in either scenario described below, then consider the implications of each:
SCENARIO A: You are scuba diving at 60 feet and have 30 minutes of air left in your tank before it’s time to go up for your safety stop. You are 15 minutes into a 45 minute dive. A white-tip reef shark approaches you (and your buddy). You are feeling calm, but you do have to eventually go up to the surface. You have no weapons. The shark does not leave. It slowly circles you at a distance that feels OK, but…
SCENARIO B: You are snorkeling above a reef in about 30 feet of water. Coral formations are variable. Your boat is 30 yards away. Swimming to shore is not an option due to the coral that surrounds you. A pair of grey reef sharks pass you by, then turn around and stay within 30 yards of you. You are armed with a rusty bolt of a spear gun and a rubber hose slingshot to propel it.
If the sharks get aggressive, are you safer as a snorkeler or as a scuba diver?
In my view, since I recently experienced both scenarios on the same day, I felt less nervous as a scuba diver because I mistakenly considered myself to be on a more equal footing with the sharks. However, as I’ve considered this further, it strikes me that, if a close encounter at 60 feet did turn into more than a mutual look-see, the probability of equipment malfunction caused by user stress, a panic-induced emergency ascent, or other "limited-resources-under-water" type problems could put the scuba diver in dire straits. Having said that, I can’t remember hearing of a scuba diver being attacked by sharks unless they were chumming the water and asking for trouble, whereas we always hear of surfer/snorkeler it-looked-like-a-tasty-seal attacks.
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