Every year, sharks attack about 100 shark people around the globe. One-third of the sharks are great whites. These stealthy predators grow up to 6m (20 ft) long and speed through the water faster than the fastest Olympic swimmer. By the time you see one, it may already be too late.
Step 1. Don’t Swim Wearing Jewelry
The most feared jaws in the ocean are packed with 300 serrated triangular teeth. While great white sharks’ favorite meals include sea lions, seals and small whales, these apex predators will occasionally attack a swimmer if they mistake a human for prey. You can avoid making a deadly mistake if you don’t swim when it’s dark. Dusk and dawn are when sharks usually attack. And leave your jewelry at home. Shiny things can look like fish to sharks and attract them.
Step 2. Stay Away From Fishing Boats
When you enter the ocean, always assume that you’re entering shark territory. First, check the horizon. If any fishing boats are nearby, stay at least 46 m (150 ft) away. When people fish, they often throw away unwanted fish and fish guts. That can attract lots of sharks.
Step 3. Keep Eye Contact
Its stealthy skills worked, so you didn’t see it coming. But now, a massive shark is circling you. That’s a sign it’s about to attack. Don’t lose all hope. Try your best to remain calm, and remember that splashing around will only encourage the already excited predator. Swivel your head, turn around and keep eye contact with the great white. Never lose sight of it, or it could easily sneak up behind you. That would be game over for you.
Step 4. Look Big
If keeping eye contact fails and the beast opens its powerful jaws to bite you, make yourself look as big as possible. Great white sharks are powerful, but they’re not invincible. The eyes and gills are sensitive spots. If it comes close enough, punch, kick and poke them as hard as you can. Use any item you have with you as a weapon, whether it’s a snorkel or a camera.
Step 5. Don’t Run
When the great white finally leaves you alone, slowly back away. If you think you’re far enough away that it’s safe to swim or run out of the water, you’re wrong. The shark can easily swim after you and attack you, even if you’re in shallow water. This predator can completely leave the water when attacking its prey. You’re not safe until you’re away from the water. Impressive. You didn’t become the shark’s dinner. You might think it’s safe enough to enjoy swimming, but watch out. You could encounter something that even great white sharks are afraid of.
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- How do sharks smell blood underwater?. Villazon, L. (2023). Science Focus.
- Yearly Worldwide Shark Attack Summary. (2023). Florida Museum.