Shark Bites Scientist's Leg During Expedition Studying Sperm Whales

A scientist was attacked by a shark in the southwest Pacific Ocean during an expedition to study sperm whales.

The young woman was bitten on the right thigh by a tiger shark off the western coast of New Caledonia—a French overseas territory—AFP reported.

As part of the sperm whale study, scientists had anchored their boat just over half a mile away from a body of water called Saint Vincent Bay when the attack occurred.

The woman and some colleagues—including a team of videographers who were making a documentary—had moved about 60 feet away from their catamaran in order to explore the coral reefs when the shark attacked.

"The shark first circled around them, then it rose from the bottom and took on one of the swimmers," a firefighter from New Caledonia told AFP on Monday.

The firefighter said tiger shark responsible likely measured over 13 feet in length.

The attack left the scientist with three lacerations—each about three inches wide—on her thigh, but she managed to escape and swim back to the catamaran with a colleague.

Once she reached the boat, members of the crew provided her with first aid. Subsequently, she was transported to Nouméa—the capital of New Caledonia, located around 100 miles to the south—where she received further medical intervention.

"Her life is not in danger," one member of the expedition said in a statement following the incident.

Shark attacks on humans are very rare, and incidents where people are killed by these animals are even rarer.

According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) operated by the Florida Museum of Natural History, no more than around 100 unprovoked shark attacks have been recorded worldwide each year over the past decade.

ISAF estimates that an individual's odds of being killed by a shark are around one in 3.7 million. This means you are more likely to die as a result of being struck by lightning.

Fatal incidents do occur, however. The global average over the past decade has been four deaths per year.

The last fatal shark attack to occur in the area where the scientist was bitten took place in 2016. Before that, the previous fatal attack took place in 2009.

Tiger sharks, great whites and bull sharks comprise the "Big Three" species that are responsible for the majority of shark attacks around the world, according to ISAF.

"They are large species that are capable of inflicting serious injuries to a victim, are commonly found in areas where humans enter the water, and have teeth designed to shear rather than hold," ISAF said.

tiger shark
Stock image showing a tiger shark. iStock