By the Numbers: Sharks vs. Well-Known Travel Sights

Most of us don't get up close and personal enough with sharks to appreciate just how big, heavy and athletic they are. That's where art, monuments and culture come in: We've paired these denizens of the deep with their counterparts on dry land (no boat, bigger or otherwise, needed).

Photo By: By Joanbanjo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Photo By: PEG

Photo By: John Greim

A great white shark...

With an average length of 13-16 feet — and a few spectacular specimens that have topped 20 feet — the great white shark is the world's largest predatory fish. (Check out this video of a massive female, likely the largest shark that's ever been filmed, here.)

...and Michelangelo's David

Created between 1501 and 1504 by one of the most celebrated artists in Italy, David stands 17 feet high and is a symbol of the Florentine republic. End-to-end, he's also the size of an extra-healthy great white shark.

A whale shark...

There's no need to fear the largest fish in the sea: While whale sharks can weigh in at a whopping 42,000 pounds, they're plankton-loving filter feeders. They're so docile, in fact, that swimmers have been known to hitch a ride on their fins.

....and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' bus

Christened "Furthur" (a misspelling that was quickly corrected), the school bus that took Ken Kesey and his band of fellow LSD enthusiasts from California to New York in 1964 (and inspired Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) happens to weigh about as much as a whale shark.

A dwarf lantern shark...

The dwarf lantern shark would be difficult to glimpse even if it didn't grow to a maximum length of 7.9 inches, since it's been observed only a handful of times, at depths of between 928 and 1,440 feet. The smallest shark is also one of the twinkliest: It has light-emitting photophores along its belly and fins that camouflage it when it feeds in shallow water and attract its meals when it's swimming in the gloom.

...and Van Gogh's Sunflowers

If you find yourself at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, consider this canvas, completed in 1889 (and part of the tortured artist's most famous series of paintings). Each of the blooms is about the size of a dwarf lantern shark.

A megalodon...

No one knows just how large megalodons might have been (or has a clear idea of what they look like), since what we know about the long-extinct killers is mostly educated guesses based on their fossilized teeth. It's speculated that their massive size — an estimated 60 feet — might have made them more vulnerable to extinction.

..and George Washington's face on Mount Rushmore

Carved around 16 million years after megalodons went belly-up, George Washington's stone likeness in South Dakota is 60 feet tall, with a 21-foot nose and 11-foot eyes. The founding father’s feelings about sharks, prehistoric or otherwise, are largely lost to history — though it’s worth noting that according to 2016 research published in Science, there are Greenland sharks alive today that were born before George(!).

A great hammerhead shark's cephalofoil...

With a width that works out to about 23-27 percent of the kooky-looking sharks' total lengths, their cephalofoils — that is, their T-shaped heads — can spread 6 feet, 8 inches, which could explain their total absence in small apartment buildings.

...and Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture

If you've spent time in midtown Manhattan, you've got a good idea of how massive the largest hammerheads are: The “E” in this famous pop-art piece is roughly as wide as a great hammerhead’s cephalofoil.

A long-tailed thresher shark’s tail...

The fox (or long-tailed thresher) shark’s tail is almost half as long as its body. That 10-foot fin might look awkward, but it’s an invaluable tool for hunting, as it can be used to stun or frighten prey.

...and the Statue of Liberty’s crown spikes

There are seven appendages on Lady Liberty’s headpiece — one for each of the seven continents — and each happens to be just about as long as a fox shark’s tail. She does not use her crown to stun or frighten prey, as far as we know.

A basking shark's mouth...

The slow-moving basking shark is the second-largest fish in the sea, and its mug — complete with a yard-wide maw — is a bit startling (and single-file lines of them were frequently mistaken for massive sea monsters centuries ago). Like the whale shark, however, the basking shark is more interested in plankton than it is in us.

...and Rodin's Thinker

Auguste Rodin cast his pensive poet — meant to represent Dante Alighieri — in a number of sizes, and some would perch comfortably on the edge of a desk. The version in the Musée Rodin’s Parisian sculpture garden, while nutritionally questionable, is just about the width of a basking shark’s mouth.

A shortfin mako's leap...

The fastest shark in the ocean has more in common with torpedoes than it does with fellow fish: It can swim at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in pursuit of tuna, and it can launch itself 30 feet in the air.

...and the statue in the Lincoln Memorial

While it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a shortfin mako leaps over Honest Abe as he watches over Washington D.C., we’ve seen Deep Blue Sea and the Sharknado films and know that anything is possible. Just saying: If conditions were right, our money is on the mako.