Questions about movies like Open Water and other diver and non-diver “fears”
The Movie Open Water, Jaws and others like it, play on people's fears.
Q. How could a boat leave a diver behind?
A. First, accidents do happen in almost any activity we do; sports, driving, or even walking down the street. The vast majority of accidents happen when someone breaks the rules. Scuba diving is no different. In order to leave someone behind, it is necessary for the crew or the diver or both not to follow the standards and/or training procedures. There are roll-calls, headcounts, sign-ins, etc. and these do work. When the rules are followed, it is very rare to leave a diver in the water.
For instance, in Open Water (the movie), the crew relies on marks on a piece of paper to count the number of divers. When two divers re-enter the water the crew doesn't catch it and this results in them being double counted when they return giving the appearance on paper that everyone is back on board. A simple headcount would have shown that two divers were missing. PADI training not only emphasizes a headcount, but recommends that the dive supervisor perform a visual verification as well. Most reputable dive boats require each diver to say they are present and they don't leave the dive site until they hear and see each person.
Divers should have signaling devices, such as whistles, inflatable sausages, or mirrors. It is now a requirement in many areas that a diver have signaling devices with them prior to leaving the boat. When both the crew and the diver follow their training, the likelihood of being left behind is practically nil.
Q. What about sharks and how real are the shark scenes?
A. This movie is not about diving with sharks, which is a completely different issue than being lost at sea. There are some useful facts about sharks and divers:
a) Shark attack is just not something divers face as a common threat
b) Bees, wasps, and snakes are responsible for more fatalities each year than sharks.
c) In the United States, the annual risk of death from lightning is 30 times greater than from shark attack.
d) Consider the number of divers, swimmers, surfers, waders, etc. in the world, then consider that only 3 shark attacks resulted in fatalities worldwide in 2002. There were no fatalities that resulted from shark attacks in the US in 2003
e) There were 3 worldwide shark attack fatalities to 42,815 fatalities in the US alone due to car crashes. There is an exponentially greater chance of a person being killed going to or coming from a movie such as Open Water versus a shark attack as an Open Water diver.
1 Burgess: G.H. 1991 Shark Attack and the International Shark Attack File
2 ISAF Statistics for Worldwide Locations of Highest Shark Attack Activity since 1990