We hope it never happens, but what exactly could you do to survive a shark attack?
Not long ago, we brought you the true story of John Craig and the Tiger Shark. It ended well, and the diver was not hurt by the shark.
But let’s face it, it may have turned out completely different. Such was the case of another diver Tony Lee who was preparing for an annual open ocean swim off Hawaii when a 12-foot tiger shark grabbed him by both feet and dragged him under.
Sharks don’t typically set out to eat humans and we hope you never have to fight off a determined and hungry shark. But, wild animals can be unpredictable.
If you find yourself at the center of attention in a shark attack do you know exactly what to do?
Two common questions always arise when the topic of how to survive a shark attack comes up. One; do you play dead and hope the shark gets bored and swims away? Or two; do you fight back at the shark for your survival?
Read on to find out what works and what doesn’t.
How A Typical Shark Attack Happens
Sharks are considered ferocious inhabitants of the waters but chances of a shark attacking you are minimal. There are more than 500 species of sharks with less than 20 of the those documented to attack humans.
Sharks generally don’t go after human flesh but they tend to bite the flesh of their prey to determine the kind of prey it is at first. Of course, such a bite could be fatal to the average human being. This is commonly seen by shark attack survivors who only suffer injuries to their limbs mostly.
The best way to avoid a shark attack is to stay away from its eating zones and this includes murky waters and harbor entrances. Swimming in waters with heavy fishing activity is also risky.
Spearfishers should always be cautious too as some shark species will jump right out of the water to snatch their catch and in the process startle or hurt them.
Would you know what to do if a shark came after you?
What Could You Do To Survive A Shark Attack?
If you spot a shark and it hasn’t spotted you, you can still swim away quickly and quietly without splashing water and get to safety.
However, it’s best to have it at the back of your mind that an attack could happen. Here are a few things to do, and not do, if a shark attacks you or is about to attack you.
1) DO NOT PLAY DEAD!!
Though this strategy could work for other wildlife (e.g. bears) it will never work with sharks and it will likely just end up ripping you to pieces.
Remember this is NOT a bear.
2) Don’t Panic
Easier said than done, but doable.
Stay calm and do not make any sudden erratic movements that will cause splashing of water. Most people will panic and try to swim away from the shark. Sharks tend to swim after fleeing targets. That explains why a lot of bites occur around the feet and leg area of victims.
3) Reduce Angles Of Attack
Sharks will circle prey looking for a weak point to attack from. They are predators and giving them fewer angles to attack might just save you.
So, instead of turning your back or feet to them, maintain eye contact with the shark and slowly back up to something like a reef or a boat if available. You can try to fend it off with an object if you have one in your hand.
4) Fight The Shark
Sounds idiotic but this may just save you.
Use any weapons you might have like spear guns and poles. In the John Craig story, remember he kept his eyes on the shark and kept it at bay with his speargun even while he was swimming.
Improvise and use objects you have on you as weapons once you see that the shark is bent on biting you. If you are snorkeling, you can use your snorkel or maybe a camera if you happen to have one. If not, you may have to use your bare arms although that’s not advisable as it could as well bite your hands.
5) Attack Sensitive Body Parts
Aim for the eyes and the gills which are very sensitive. Punching underwater is always difficult so it’s better you claw repeatedly at the eyes and gills.
For instance, in the story of Tony Lee, the shark had already torn off part of his leg so he decided to do something – anything – to save himself.
He eventually survived the shark attack by ripping out one of the shark’s eyes. Tony Lee dug his index finger right into the eye socket (behind the eyeball) and pulled till the eye ripped out. Only then did the attacker – a Tiger shark – let go.
“It grabbed both of my legs, and at first I thought just for a second that it was my friend …. and he was just messing with me,… but then I felt the horrific pain.” – Tony Lee.
Another spot that’s said to be sensitive is the shark’s snout. Though, this is subject to a lot of different opinions as the mouth is just under the snout and putting your hands anywhere near the mouth is not a good idea.
You can repeatedly punch the snout, and claw at its eyes and gills and the shark will definitely back off. Or just surprise it enough to give you enough time to swim away.
5) Get To Safety
Even if the shark retreats and swims away, you need to get out the water as quickly as possible. This is because they tend to come back. Therefore swim away quickly or call out for help if you are near shore or there are boats in the water.
And of course, get medical treatment if you sustained any bites no matter how small.
Surviving a shark attack might seem almost impossible but with the correct knowledge, you may just live to see another day.
Remember that wild animals can be unpredictable. An encounter with a shark could go either way: you could escape or get badly hurt.
John Craig escaped unhurt but Tony Lee had one leg amputated and the other leg badly damaged.