Data in the Water: Shark Attacks Visualized

With the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election looming large over data visualization projects worldwide, I decided to go in a slightly different direction: shark attacks!

The good folks at the Shark Research Institute have been scouring books and the internet for shark attack data. All in all, I’ll be graphing about 5000 attacks.

As you can see, reports of shark attacks have been increasing over time, and most are non-fatal.


Shark attack records start off slow, but really start to pick up steam around the turn of the century. Also, there was a surge of attacks in the early 1960s, and another in the early 2000s. Why these periods? Let’s find out!

It seems that the spike in the 1960s was the result of more fishermen being attacked, while the attacks of the 2000s resulted from the growing popularity of surfing. Note also the great number of shark attacks that happened between 1935 and 1949. Unfortunately, these were mostly the result of warships going down in shark-infested waters.

The most common causes of attacks plotted over time.

The great number of fishermen being attacked in the 1960s actually coincides with a global fishing boom that happened around then. In fact, a bunch of overfishing regulations got passed toward the end of that decade, which are probably responsible for the dip in fishermen getting bitten .

Here’s an example: look at the 1960s! (Source: Wikipedia)

Moving on: most of the attack entries had information about the victim, like age and gender. So let’s check it out. Who gets attacked more, men or women?

Men do!

The lone female war victim lost a leg in Sri Lanka in 1939. Also, the four prison break attacks happened at night in the San Francisco Bay–Alcatraz!

How about age and gender? The youngest victims (on average) are waders, followed by surfers and swimmers. The oldest victims are fishermen, researchers, and prisoners.

The boxes contain average age values by gender. The largest age difference is among researchers: why do you think that is?

Finally, maybe the coolest question. How big are these sharks? People only started recording shark size in the mid-1800s, so we’ll start there.

As you can see, sharks seem to have miraculously gotten smaller right after the invention of the first portable, low-price camera!


(Also, only men exaggerate the size of their sharks.)

“I swear dude, it was 20 feet long!”

Thanks for reading!

Want more data visualization? Check out my other posts at:


4 thoughts on “Data in the Water: Shark Attacks Visualized

  1. Great. Why not do a chart on deaths of alleged ET/UFO contactees, and investigators. Cause and date. You could start with Nicholas Tesla. Admiral Byrd and James Forrestal, Secretary of Defense at the time. I know that Dr. Hynek and Vance Dewey died of brain tumors. Dr. Mack of a “car wreck”. Professor McDonald and Jessup of “fake suicides”. Jacques Vallee? Pat McGuire, a Wyoming rancher was threatened with death, along with many others. This is just a short list. Lisa Romanek (on Facebook) has a longer list. You might include those researchers or investigators falsely charged with crimes like child molestation like Air Force Colonel Wendelle Stevens who went to jail rather than being assassinated. I am not sure would happened to Corsi. But, Stan Romanek, an ET contactee in Loveland, Colorado was charged with child pornography after being told to “shut up” and after being beat up so bad he was hospitalized with a broken arm and nose. He refused to stay quiet and goes to trial on MARCH 15, 2017 in Loveland, Colorado. This might be interesting to cover, as an example of suppression by false charges, but the list of deaths and threats of death to keep silent is very long. I know. I was one of them as a journalist investigating ET contactees. I met many with similar stories who have kept quiet after being threatened. A big story. A little graphic data might go a long way. Linda Howe and Michael Salla, and Jan Harazan might have many more names and examples. You can do most of it by Google.


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