Peter Benchley, author of famous novel "Jaws" and co-author of the movie adaptation for the "Jaws" film once said, "We provoke a shark every time we enter the water where sharks happen to be, for we forget. The ocean is not our territory -- it's theirs."
It comes around once a year, and no, I don't mean your birthday. I don't even mean Christmas! I mean the infamous Discovery Channel Shark Week. The one week out of the year that viewers tune in and watch footage of all sorts of sharks and shark behaviors to decide if they will ever enter the ocean again. The one week of the year that makes you question why you ever thought sharks were dumb or weak (probably because of "Sharknado").
While Shark Week can be terrifying in a captivating way, knowing more about sharks can be the literal difference between life and death. Thankfully, that week was last week and tips to travel into the waters safer are available.
Here are the top 10 things that this year's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel taught us:
1. Safety First.
When swimming in the ocean, one must remember that you are invading a shark's home. Like Benchley said, you're in their territory, not the other way around. If in the event that something horrible were to happen (bitten), it is important to take care of the wound immediately. Assess the damage to the wound. If needed, create a tourniquet above the wound to slow/stop the life threatening injury. Further more, you should never enter the waters alone. If something were to happen, you need someone to help contact EMTs and emergency services.
2. Sharks can be found in every body of water.
Oddly enough, not even freshwater sources are safe from sharks lurking below anymore. Some river sharks and even bull sharks have been found around the world. There is no body of water safe from a shark, and we should never forget that when stepping into a non-man-made body of water.
3. Shark Eating.
Sharks have been known to bite many things. Some great white sharks have been filmed biting metal cages and all sorts of other odd things. The tiger shark is better known as "the trash can of the sea," having been discovered to eat turtles, license plates and many other weird objects (which is why we all need to watch trash and dispose of trash correctly).
While sharks eat many assorted "snacks," a shark typically does not set out to eat a human being, so for the most part, you're safe.
4. Beware the night swim.
Sharks have crazy eye sight! A shark, like a cat, has what is called a tapetum lucidum, which acts as a two-way mirror for a shark. That means when the shark looks at something, they, in a sense, see the object twice. Because of this awesome eye sight, this makes sharks more advanced at nighttime swimming than a human. So avoid the waters at night. A shark might mistake you for a fish!
5. Two words: Air. Jaws.
If you have never seen a great white breach the waters and JUMP from the ocean and into the air to catch a seal, then you have been missing out! Thankfully, I have one linked right here (if you want, the shot is right before the two minute mark). While most sharks cannot do that, this activity still demonstrates the STRENGTH of a shark! Go great white!
6. The shallows -- not just a good movie, but reality.
Many beach goers have a false mentality that by hanging out in the shallow waters of the ocean, they are safe. Sadly, they are wrong. Some sharks have been known to swim all the way up to the beach in order to catch their prey. While many of these attacks are not fatal, they can result in the loss of an arm or leg. Be safe. Be smart. Stay sharp, even in shallow water.
7. Ampullae of Lorenzini.
The ampullae of lorenzini are a series of pores in a shark's head that allow sharks to sense muscle movement from animals or even humans around them. This sixth and seventh sense allows the shark to find their prey through electrical senses.
8. Tonic immobility.
If I were to ever be attacked by a shark, I would attempt tonic immobility of the shark, and you should too. When a shark is flipped onto their back (belly up), the sharks enter into a state of euphoria or peace. It is within this time the sharks are stilled and do not begin to move again until you push them away. While this sounds like an easy fix, this is a difficult task to complete. The best way to enable this is to mess with the shark's ampullae of lorenzini and then flip the shark. That means you have to have your hand near the shark's mouth.
9. Sharks are misunderstood.
Sharks do not set out to harm humans. Unlike us, sharks have no hands or feet and rely on only their electrical impulses: sight, smell and the touch sense through their mouth. When a shark bites a human (in most cases), they realize they have not caught a fish and release. Sadly, the damage is already done to the human.
10. Death rates.
Discovery came out with an article on the 13 things you were more likely to die from than a shark attack. Vending machines, dogs (both pets and hot dogs) and deer are just some of the strange things on this list that you statistically can die from more likely than a shark (you can view the others here).
While these statistics are strange, this further proves that sharks are not as scary as you thought prior to tuning in to Shark Week.
While sharks may not be giant sea teddy bears, they are not as viscous as movies like "Jaws," "The Shallows," or even the "Sharknado" movies would like to portray. Sharks are just another one of God's wonderful creatures and should be respected as such. Just remember the next time you go to the beach, to respect their home. Sharks have been around for thousands of years, and with more research and knowledge, they can be around for millions more.