Powerful and mysterious, sharks inspire both fascination and fear. Worldwide, oceans are home to some five-hundred species, and of those, fifty-six are known to reside in or pass through the waters off the coast of both North and South Carolina. At any given time, waders, swimmers, and surfers enjoying these waters are frequently within just one-hundred feet of a shark. While it's unnerving to know that sharks often swim just below the surface in the shallows, W. Clay Creswell, a shark-bite investigator for the Shark Research Institute's Global Shark Attack File, explains that attacks on humans are extremely rare. In 2019 the International Shark Attack File confirmed sixty-four unprovoked attacks on humans, including three in North Carolina and one in South Carolina.
While acknowledging that they pose real dangers to humans, Creswell believes the fear of sharks is greatly exaggerated. During his sixteen-year association with the Shark Research Institute, he has investigated more than one hundred shark-related incidents and has maintained a database of all shark–human encounters along the Carolina coastlines back to 1817. Creswell uses this data to expose the truth and history of this often-sensationalized topic.
Beyond the statistics related to attacks in the Carolina waters, Sharks in the Shallows offers a history of shark–human interactions and an introduction to the world of shark attacks. Creswell details the conditions that increase a person's chances of an encounter, profiles the three species most often involved in attacks, and reveals the months and time of day with the highest probability of an encounter. With a better understanding of sharks' responses to their environment, and what motivates them to attack humans, he hopes people will develop a greater appreciation of the invaluable role sharks play in our marine environment.