You ever wonder why, if two-thirds of the planet is covered with water, all 7 billion people -- except your weird aunt who lives on a boat -- reside on land? Sure, it MIGHT be because it’s easier to grow crops, build houses, and generally conduct business. OR... it might be because the ocean is just so gosh darned deadly.
Don’t believe us? Watch one episode of Deadliest Catch. Or take a look at these 12 ways that the ocean could one day kill you.
To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, fishing is a lot like sex: fun only for amateurs. Old pros don't do much giggling. It’s a nasty business. From 1992 to 2008, there were 58 deaths per year on average in the commercial fishing industry, a rate 27 times higher than for ALL other US workers. What we’re saying is, enjoy your afternoon trying to catch a marlin and leave it at that.
Until the prophecy that was Waterworld comes true, and we’re all blessed with gills and poor acting skills, it’s impossible to breathe underwater. From 2005 to 2009, an average of 3,533 people died in NON-boat-related drowning accidents each year in the US. So, yes, this one is both the most obvious and most likely way to die in the ocean.
You know what happens when too many people in bathing suits crowd one side of a boat, desperately trying to take selfies with the Miami skyline in the background so that they can post it on Instagram with the caption, “I’m on a boat”? The freaking boat flips over, naturally. And while selfie-crowding might not be the reason an average of about 260 people a year died between 2008-2012 in capsizing boat accidents, it sure as heck doesn’t help.
Even if you and your really, really good-looking friends don’t get into a gasoline fight to Wham! when refueling your boat, that doesn’t mean a boat explosion can’t happen to you. In fact, around 250 boats explode each year in the US; thankfully, fewer than 10 people die as a result.
Easy there, Cousteau. As wondrous and surreal as the underwater world is, the human body isn’t designed to swim down 100ft, even with the most badass nitrox tank available. Whether it’s running out of air, equipment malfunctioning, getting sucked into a current/stuck in a cave, or any number of other ways, the sport can kill you: divers die at a rate of about 15-30 per 100,000.
Unless you’re swimming in the Gulf of Mexico or a tropical locale with water temps over 80 degrees, don’t plan on staying in too long; you lose body heat 25 times faster in water than you do on land. Which means that even if the water is 75 degrees, you still won't last more than 12 hours in it. If the water’s below 60 degrees, anything over an hour puts you in serious danger.
Getting lost at sea
“But I have GPS,” you say. Nice try. GPS fails ALL. THE. TIME. And boaters who depend on it often disappear like Tom Hanks, or the cast of Lost. About 1,000 people get lost at sea every year, from both private and commercial sectors, and most of them were using some sort of navigation system.
Decompression sickness (the bends)
Nothing ruins a fun day of diving than a considerably less-fun afternoon in a decompression chamber. But that’s what happens when you try and surface too fast at the end of a long dive. And while only about one in 10 cases of the bends is fatal, it still happens on about one in every 7,400 dives, killing 76,900 people. So relax, ascend slowly, and make the requisite safety stops.
Even if your boat doesn’t blow up or capsize, it can still get hit by A LOT of other things, namely, other boats! Or sandbars. Or icebergs. On average, 347 people die each year in boating accidents, and -- while that’s a lot fewer than in car accidents -- it should serve as a friendly reminder that you need to exercise the same caution on the water that you would on the road.
Even if you slept through seventh-grade science class, at some point Mr. Wizard, or Bill Nye, or Gil Grissom taught you that water conducts electricity. What they may not have taught you is that saltwater conducts it 50-1,000 times faster than fresh water. So if a bolt of lightning strikes near your favorite ocean swimming spot, there’s a pretty good chance Grissom’s counterpart in Miami will be looking down at you saying, “Well, I guess this is one way of giving power to the people.” YEEEEEAHHHHH!!!!!!
While those attention-seeking sharks get their own friggin’ week and B-movie role next to Ian Ziering, jellyfish are way more likely to kill you than any shark. The box jellyfish kills 40 people a year in the Philippines ALONE, and that doesn't include any of the other countries in the South Pacific. Even if it doesn’t kill you, a jellyfish still administers a nasty sting that sometimes requires someone to urinate on the wound to neutralize the venom. So that's not fun either.
Poisoned by a sea snail
The absolute last thing you want anybody saying is, “Hey! Did you hear about Bob? Dude got killed by a SNAIL!” Because death is sad, and nobody should be laughing about it. But they will. They also won’t know that the deadly cone snail doesn't mess around, and will fire a poison harpoon at whatever threatens it. You know who does know that? The 30 confirmed people who’ve been killed by these things. So as pretty as those shells might look, best leave them in the ocean where they belong.