Can I Survive a Shark Attack by Gouging Out Its Eyes?


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark, a staff writer here at HowStuffWorks.com. With me is fellow staff writer, Charles Chuck Bryant. We call him Chuck. We know him and love him as Chuck. We think pretty highly of Chuck. How you doing, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum.

Josh Clark: Hold on. I know what you're doing. I know what you're doing. What is that from? Is that from Tremors?

Chuck Bryant: No, it's not from the awesome Fred Ward movie, Tremors.

Josh Clark: Is it another Fred Ward movie, maybe Uncommon Valor?

Chuck Bryant: No. Remo Williams, no!

Josh Clark: Huh. I'm stumped. What is it?

Chuck Bryant: It's from Jaws.

Josh Clark: That's right. That's right.

Chuck Bryant: And you know what that means.

Josh Clark: I have seen Jaws. It means we're talking about sharks. You want to talk about sharks, pal?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, let's talk about sharks, and more specifically what you can do if you get attacked by a shark.

Josh Clark: What can you do? I imagine just lay there and bleed to death. That's what I always planned on doing.

Chuck Bryant: That's one. I know you professed to have a black belt in running away. Swimming away is not quite the same thing, my friend.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: I think the best advice you can give is to try and hit the shark in the nose, grab the shark by the gills or poke a shark in the eye, ala Curly from the Three Stooges.

Josh Clark: Yeah, except I don't know if you can get your fingers across that wide.

Chuck Bryant: No, you'd have to come in from both sides, actually.

Josh Clark: Yeah, which is cheating.

Chuck Bryant: It is cheating. All of those three things could have an effect on making a shark leave, for a couple of reasons. I know you want to talk a little bit about the receptors in a shark's nose.

Josh Clark: How do you know that?

Chuck Bryant: We're in sync that way.

Josh Clark: We're simpatico, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: So there's this thing in the shark's nose. It's basically in the shark's nose, the area of it, called the ampullae of lorenzini.

Chuck Bryant: Right, which you can order with a side of scungilli.

Josh Clark: Exactly and you're all set and fat and happy and you should probably wear the napkin in your shirt during that meal.

Chuck Bryant: Always.

Josh Clark: So basically what this is is it's a series of these little pores and they're jelly-filled. And they have little hairs in them. And it's a shark's electrical receptors. Sharks pick up very, very faint electrical impulses, put out by living things.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Movement creates electricity, that kind of thing, and the shark can - it's one of the shark's senses. It's a sense that we lack that a shark has, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right and that's probably the reason why they've been around for hundreds of millions of years and we haven't.

Josh Clark: Precisely, yeah. They haven't changed that much, have they?

Chuck Bryant: No, they haven't. They used to be a lot bigger. The megala, what was it called?

Josh Clark: I think megalodon.

Chuck Bryant: That's it. He was like a great white, but three times the size, like 60 feet long, perhaps.

Josh Clark: That's unsettling.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it is.

Josh Clark: Yeah, so - but apparently, and I'm not sure if this would have been the same case with the megalodon, but if you punch a shark in these pores, the ampullae of lorenzini, it would be tantamount to basically punching you in your soul, right? If you could detect maybe punching you in your fillings, your metal fillings in your teeth while you were chewing aluminum foil, I imagine it would be something like that. That will get a shark's attention. It will basically say back off pal.

Chuck Bryant: Right and there's a good chance that if you get a hold of the gills or you punch them in the nose like that, if you're able to do this. That's the problem we talked about. If you're able to have the wherewithal while you're being attacked by a shark and taking in salt water and possibly having a foot ripped off, that you can bring it all together and say let me go find that eye or that gill or even make a fist for that matter.

Josh Clark: Right. It kind of makes me wonder if something on another podcast we talked about, hysterical strength, if that comes into play.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Where you just totally focus and raining blows upon some poor shark, saying never come back, never come back, that kind of thing.

Chuck Bryant: Right, like Clubber Lang in Rocky III, just go off on the shark's nose. That's possible.

Josh Clark: Pretty much, yeah. I don't know if that would happen. I wouldn't want to know. And there are some considerations to actually fighting a shark. We also want to say that our esteemed colleague, Kristen Conger, wrote this article.

Chuck Bryant: She did.

Josh Clark: She knows her stuff.

Chuck Bryant: She actually went in the cage.

Josh Clark: She's the shark fighter, yeah. Kristen points out that when you're going for a shark's gills or its eyes, you're also, simultaneously presenting your arm, going hey shark, check it out, you want this, can you take it kind of thing.

Chuck Bryant: Right and the flailing limb is kind of what they're attracted to in the first place. It's something they can easily grab hold of. But I know the myth busters on the Discovery Channel tested this out by putting sort of a Rock-em Sock-em Robot that they made outside of a shark's cage. And this thing would - they attracted the shark and it would punch this guy in the nose, which was kind of cool.

Josh Clark: Punch the shark in the nose?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, punch the shark, and it was kind of cool, but I also kind of felt bad for the shark because -

Josh Clark: Yeah, shark abuse.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they're just trying to eat. They don't mean anything.

Josh Clark: I know. And most shark attacks are mistaken identity, right?

Chuck Bryant: Mistaken identity and some sharks are threatened because of over fishing and bycatch when they catch sharks when they don't mean to. We need to protect the sharks, not go around punching them in the face.

Josh Clark: So now that you know, this is very similar to martial arts. You never start a fight with a shark. But if a shark starts a fight with you, you can finish it. You should probably brush up a little more and read, "Can I survive a shark attack by gouging out its eyes," on HowStuffWorks.com.Announcer: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com. Let us know what you think. Send an e-mail to Podcast@HowStuffWorks.com.