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Friday, June 14, 2019
[Both] Hey, Dylan and Allie here!
[Allie] Summer’s arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, (okay, not officially, but it will in one week) and we thought that it’d be great to share some of our tips on how to survive a shark attack.
[Dylan] We want you to enjoy the ocean over the summer and know you’re safe and secure with some of these tips. Of course, shark attacks are extremely rare. You’re more likely to run afoul of Mayor Aldridge than get killed by a shark attack.
[Allie] Or killed by a coconut or a lightning strike.
[Dylan] Right. And as I’m sure you’ve heard; we kill a lot more sharks than sharks will ever kill of us. Humans kill millions of sharks per year, while sharks kill an average of 6 people per year worldwide.
[Allie] While both Dylan and I have a great appreciation of sharks, we do understand the fear they can instill in people. As someone who’s had several shark encounters myself, both positive and near shark attacks, I understand how someone facing a threatening shark feels.
[Dylan] So Allie thought it’d be a good idea to share some of the techniques she and others have used to prevent and survive shark attacks.
[Both] So without further comment, here’s our guide:
How to Survive a Shark Attack
By: Dylan and Allie
How to Avoid Being Attacked
Sharks, like many wild animals, prefer to stay away from negative encounters with humans. There are many warning signs a shark will give off before attacking that if you pay attention, can alert you to a pending serious situation. One such warming is the posture of a shark. If a shark begins to arch its back, it’s annoyed and stressed out. This is a sign that you need to back away and give it space. Another is the behavior of a shark, if it circles you, it can mean one of two things. Either the shark is just curious about you, or it intends to attack and is looking for a vulnerable position where it can approach. The best way to avoid this is to keep your eye on the shark and rotate in the water to keep your gaze focused on it to where its never behind or to the side of you. If you are with someone else, stay back to back to them so that you both are protected and one of you always has a visual on the shark. Make yourself look as big and menacing as possible. If you swim away in a hurry or act scared, the shark will assume you are a prey item. Keeping calm is key to maintaining control of the situation. As you monitor the shark's behavior, stay still and calm, but if the shark begins to act aggressively, slowly make your way back to the boat or shore. If you are too far away from safety, but have anything in your hands like a pole, camera, or spear gun, place it in-between you and the shark and use it to redirect the shark away from you if it gets too close. It’s important to gently redirect it, not attack offensively, which a shark could take as a provocation to attack you. Some sharks have been known to dislike the sudden appearance of bubbles in the water. If near the surface, you can slap your arm down into the water to create a sudden column of bubbles that can deter an incoming shark.
For those of you who don’t swim in the open ocean, there are ways to avoid being attacked in inshore waters as well. First and foremost, if you are bleeding from anywhere on your body, do not enter the water. It doesn’t matter how small the amount of blood is, sharks can smell it within a one-mile radius. If you start bleeding while you’re in the water, immediately get out. As tempting as the water is to enjoy, it isn’t worth risking your life or those of others around you. If you do see a shark in the water, do not provoke it by touching it or attacking it yourself.
In general, whether you find yourself on the beach in shallow water or swimming in the open ocean, never swim alone. Sharks (and predators in general) go for the loner. If you are with others, sharks are much less likely to attack. Also, be careful about what you wear for swimwear. Anything with high contrast, bright colors like yellow, or metallic silver (swimsuit or jewelry) will attract sharks. This is because it will make you appear more like a fish. If you don’t want to be prey, don’t act like it. That includes excessive splashing. When you splash around, you mimic the death throes of a dying fish. This will attract sharks because it’s like a dinner bell ringing. If you have a dog or other pet that likes the water, keep them out of the ocean as well. Their swimming style creates a lot of unnecessary splashing.
The time in which you swim is also paramount. At night, many shark species are more active, and visibility is little to none for humans, both of which makes it extremely dangerous for us. Dusk and twilight are also not good times to swim because sharks are actively looking for food, and once again, the water clarity may not be conducive for you seeing sharks approaching.
Just like time is important, so is water quality and location. Humans can’t see well in murky water, but shark senses give them a clear view of what is in the water. They can easily ambush prey and that includes accidental attacks on humans. Stay away from the mouths of rivers as they tend to be more brackish and can have more pollution or sewage in them. Anywhere where someone is fishing is a bad place to swim. Combine all the other issues we’ve already warned you about (like excessive splashing, blood, and coloration) and you have the perfect situation for a shark invitation to dinner. Harbors aren’t a good place to swim because of murky water and boats that could run you over, (let’s be reasonable here!).
Pay attention to other animals around you. If you see typical prey items of sharks like seals, fish, or sea turtles abruptly leave the area, chances are, a shark may be present. However, do not think that the presence of a seal, fish, or dolphins mean a shark isn’t nearby or in the water. Just like lions and their prey species coexist in the Serengeti, sharks and their prey coexist in the ocean. The presence of one does not mean the absence of the other.
How To Survive An Attack
If all else fails and you find yourself in the jaws of a shark who refuses to let go, fight back. Play dead and you soon will be. Sharks don’t fall for the playing dead act. For them, it’s an invitation to keep eating. Fight back by pulling or punching the gills of the shark. For sharks, it’s the only way they can breathe and if you attack them there, they will most likely let go. If the gills are out of reach, but the eyes are not, jab them in the eye. No creature likes having their eyes attacked, (think of how bad it hurts when you accidentally jab yourself in the eye). Although some scientists have suggested punching the shark in the nose, we suggest against it. It is true that shark snouts are sensitive due to the ampullae of Lorenzini receptors they have there. But the truth is that humans are slow underwater compared to a shark and the snout of the shark is alarmingly close to their jaws. There was even a swimmer in Brazil who lost his hands because he tried punching the shark in the snout and the shark bit off his hands. We think the safest bet is to keep your body away from the shark’s razor-sharp teeth.
Whatever you do, don’t stop fighting until you’re free from the shark’s jaws. Once free, get out of the water as soon as you can. If you’re far from shore, keep an eye out for any sharks as you swim back to safety. If near others, cry out for help. Whether alone or not, keep pressure on the wound as best as possible or create a tourniquet above the wound if it’s large. Get emergency medical attention as soon as you’re out of the water to help control the bleeding until you can get to the hospital. Even if you think the bite wasn’t too bad, a shark’s mouth is full of all kinds of bacteria and you don’t want to get gangrene, so receiving medical attention is necessary.
Of course, the only 100% sure way to ensure you’ll never be attacked by a shark is to never enter any body of water outside of a swimming pool. But what fun would that be? You’d miss out on the wonder and beauty of the ocean. So just remember our tips, and you’ll have a fun and safe summer.
Author’s Note: While Dylan and Allie have had their fair share of shark encounters, neither are experts in the field of shark science. If you want to read a few modern resources on how to avoid and survive a shark attack, click any of the links below: