Surviving a Shark Attack

Few things are nearly as terrifying to a swimmer as a sharp upright fin braking the waves and moving towards them and with good reason.  Beasts like the Great White Shark are devastating killers in their natural habitat.  Though humans may not be their preferred prey, the Great White is ranked first globally as the shark most likely to attack people who stray into the water. 

That said, the sheer danger that these beasts provide has made them irresistible to a certain breed of adventure tourist, and even marine biologists have a hard time not getting excited about these magnificent creature.  This has led to massive growth in the cage diving industry, an activity where divers descend into the ocean inside a protective cage to see Shark’s up close and in person.    

Such activities aren’t for the faint of heart – the Sharks regularly attack and bash themselves against the cage.  Worse still, in some areas that play host to regular shark dives, there are reports that the Sharks are increasingly associating boats and humans with food.  This has led to the animals attacking buoys and boats, stalking fishing vessels and swimming uncomfortable close to divers and swimmers.   The Island of Obla in New Zealand was recently in the news particularly for the concern many of its locals have with the behaviour of the local sharks. 

Great Whites are by no means the only Shark known to attack humans.  Tiger and Bull Sharks are also known to attack and many more will bite humans though generally only when threatened.  In any case, it’s prudent for people who may be swimming, cage diving or  otherwise likely to come up again Sharks to have a couple of survival tips so they can hopefully avoid joining the very small number of people who die from Shark attacks every year.

Pick the Right Place and Time

Even in areas where sharks are known to be, some places are more dangerous than others.  Estuaries and river mouths are popular hunting grounds for sharks and should be avoided.   Secondly Sharks, like people, don’t see so well in dim light making it unadvisable to go swimming at dawn or dusk when a human might be mistaken for something else. 

Sharks Have Excellent Noses

Sharks can smell blood over a huge difference in very small concentrations.  It’s part of what makes them such effective predators.  For humans this means that if you are bleeding in any way whether from an injury or from menstruation its best to stick to the shore.  It’s also why you should avoid swimming anywhere near fishing vessels – the blood from the fish being brought abroad might lure sharks into the area.

Don’t Panic! 

Thrashing and splashing in the water is a huge indicator to the Shark that there is something there.  They may not quite be able to smell fear, but they can certainly tell that there is something in distress they can go for.  Instead, keep calm and keep facing the shark.  As ambush predators they prefer to attack from behind, which they will do if you try to run.  Also unless you’re very close to safety, you simply can’t out swim a shark – Great Whites can reach 56 km/ph!

Be Ready to Fight

If the Shark still goes for you the worst thing you can do it play dead.  Sharks eat dead things and you’ll just help it get a chomp in.   Instead be prepared to be aggressive and attack if it comes too close.  The eyes and gills are excellent targets being relatively sensitive.  There is also a lot of advice that punching the Shark on the nose is really painful for the animal – however this does go with the caveat that the nose is very close to the animals mouth making it hard to attack when underwater.  Use anything you have as a weapon to get the upper hand – a spear gun, a camera, even a rock.  If it can lend impact to your strikes you have a better chance to survive the shark.

Get Out of the Water

Calmly and slowly, get out of the water as quickly as is reasonably achievable.  Given their lack of legs, your chances against the shark sky rocket if you can get onto land or a boat.  Remember however to keep looking at the Shark and not to thrash wildly so as to attract attention.

ADL would like to advise our readers that the above does not constitute professional advice and is for entertainment purposes only.  

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