'Shark Week' Offers More Glimpses Into Terrifying, Predator-Infested Waters

Shark Week Offers More Glimpses Into Terrifying, Predator-Infested Waters

Andy Dehart says he can't think of a place he'd rather be than hundreds of feet below sea level in the company of some of the world's deadliest creatures.

"Being under water with sharks is my form of yoga," said Dehart, a shark expert and adviser to the Discovery Channel, which kicks off its 22nd annual "Shark Week" broadcast Aug 2.

VIDEO: Shark Week is Back!
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"To me, it's the most relaxing place on earth," Dehart told ABCNews.com.

But for most people, who unlike Dehart would never willingly enter shark-infested waters, "Shark Week" offers them insight into the mysterious world below.

This year's programming will focus on the history of shark attacks, according to Dehart, who said that the six new shows to be shown during this year's "Shark Week" will show just how much has been learned about the sea creatures since 1916, when sharks made headlines after five people were attacked in 12 days off the coast of New Jersey.

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The 1916 shark attacks, documented in "Shark Week's" drama "Blood in the Water," were the inspiration for the book and later the hit movie "Jaws," which is credited for instilling the fear of sharks into generations of swimmers and surfers.

"We've come a long way since then," said Dehart, who currently works at the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C. "Back then people thought shark attacks were not possible north of North Carolina.

"Now we know that sharks do go up there, and there are large tiger sharks off the coast of New York," said Dehart of one of the three species of sharks considered to be truly deadly.

There are on average 63 shark attacks a year, which result in fewer than five fatalities. Today, the odds of getting attacked by a shark are slim, even in places like Florida, where the greatest number of shark attacks occur. But even at the height of shark attack incidents in 2000, the odds of getting killed by a shark were one in 264 million, meaning you had a greater chance of getting mauled to death by a dog (odds of that happening are about nine to one), according to Dehart.

Dehart said it was also once believed that great white sharks, the animal probably most feared by humans, would only survive in tropical seas, but that it is now known the sharks actually prefer cooler water and are usually found only in warmer climates when they're traveling from one area to another.

'Shark Week' Debunks Underwater Myths

The sheer size of sharks is yet another myth Dehart says years of research has helped to debunk. Back around the time of the New Jersey attacks, a researcher published an article describing great white sharks as an "object of dread" that were capable of growing to a whopping 40 feet.

Dehart says that today scientists know that the largest recorded great white was 21 feet long.

"We didn't even believe that sharks could remove a human limb with a bite," said Dehart. "We now know they're incredibly efficient predators, and great white sharks can totally demobilize a seal bigger than the average human with just one strike."

But the lack of knowledge about sharks still motivates researchers like Dehart, who went night diving during the filming of Discovery's "Shark After Dark," a documentary that captures shark enthusiasts as they try to discover what exactly goes on underwater after sunset.

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