Will Punching A Shark In The Nose Really Save You?

Shark attacks are a deep rooted fear of humankind, bordering almost upon obsession. We practically fantasize about their hundreds of multi-tiered, serrated teeth grating our flesh like cheddar cheese, and we satisfy our fantasies yearly with Shark Week, a modern Carnivale for the shark-obsessed.

Yet, for the millions that tune-in yearly, only a handful of people have ever been or will ever be attacked. How few are we talking? According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, which put together a report of unprovoked attacks, there have been 828 recorded incidents since the year 1580. 

In fact, the Wildlife Museum puts your odds of death by shark attack at 1 in 3.7 million, which are lower than death by fireworks, lightning, or car accident combined. That being said, attacks do happen, and, as we all have heard, the best thing to do if attacked is to channel Mike Tyson and bop the flesh eating aggressor on its schnoz. But does this actually work? 

David Shiffman, a Ph.D. student at the University of Miami's Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy studying shark ecology and conservation, says it's not a good idea, presumably because you're more likely to antagonize the shark than somehow cripple it with your fist. Instead, Shiffman says to go for the eyes. 

"If you poke something in the eye, it will stop what it is doing. Sharks have a protective eyelid-like barrier called a nictitating membrane, but it's designed to protect from a thrashing fish caught in that shark's jaws and not from fingers."

Apparently it worked for surfer Scott Stephens, who survived an attack by going for the eyes in 2012. So, punching is okay, but aim for the peeper instead of the sniffer. Of course, just like with abstinence, the only way to guarantee safety is to abstain from shark-infested waters entirely, but if you do venture out there –- wear protection.