How to swim with sharks
-- Voltaire Cousteau (Paris 1812)
Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport, and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating. These instructions are written primarily for the benefit of those who, by virtue of their occupation, find that they must swim and find that the water is infested with sharks.
It is of obvious importance to learn that the waters are shark infested before commencing to swim. It is safe to assume that this initial determination has already been made. If the waters were clearly not shark infested, this would be of little interest or value. If the waters were shark infested, the naive swimmer is by now probably beyond help; at the very least he has doubtless lost any interest in learning how to swim with sharks.
Finally, swimming with sharks is like any other skill: it cannot be learned from books alone; the novice must practice in order to develop the skill. The following rules simply set forth the fundamental principles which, if followed, will make it possible to survive while becoming expert through practice.
Admittedly, it is difficult not to bleed when injured. Indeed, at first this may seem impossible. Diligent practice, however, will permit the experienced swimmer to sustain a serious laceration without bleeding and without even exhibiting any loss of composure. The hemostatic reflex can in part be conditioned, but there may be constitutional aspects as well. Those who cannot learn to control their bleeding should not attempt to swim with sharks, for the peril is too great.
The control of bleeding has a positive protective element for the
swimmer. The shark will be confused as to whether or not his attack has
injured you, and confusion is to the swimmer's advantage. On the other
hand, the shark may know he has injured you and be puzzled as to why you
do not bleed or show distress. This also has a profound effect on
sharks. They begin questioning their own potency or, alternatively,
believe the swimmer to have supernatural powers.
Some swimmers mistakenly believe that an ingratiating attitude will
dispel an attack under these circumstances. This is not correct, such a
response provokes a shark attack. Those who hold this erroneous view can
usually be identified by their missing limbs.
No useful purpose is served in attempting to rescue the injured swimmer. He either will or will not survive the attack, and your intervention cannot protect him once blood has been shed. Those who survive such an attack rarely venture to swim with sharks again, an attitude which is readily understandable.
The lack of effective countermeasures to a fully developed shark
attack emphasizes the importance of the earlier rules.
The procedure is essentially the same as described under rule 3 -- a
sharp blow to the nose. Here, however, the blow is unexpected and serves
to remind the shark that you are both alert and unafraid. Swimmers
should take care not to injure the shark and draw blood during this
exercise for two reasons: First, sharks often bleed profusely, and this
leads to the chaotic situation described under rule 4. Second, if
swimmers act in this fashion it may not be possible to distinguish
swimmers from sharks. Indeed, renegade swimmers are far worse than
sharks, for none of the rules or measures described here is effective in
controlling their aggressive behavior.
The proper strategy is diversion. Sharks can be diverted from their organized attack in one of two ways. First, sharks as a group are especially prone to internal dissension. An experienced swimmer can divert an organized attack by introducing something, often something minor or trivial, which sets the sharks to fighting among themselves. Usually by the time the internal conflict is settled the sharks cannot even recall what they were setting about to do, much less get organized to do it.
A second mechanism of diversion is to introduce something which so enrages the members of the group that they begin to lash out in all directions, even attacking inanimate objects in their fury.
What should be introduced? Unfortunately, different things prompt internal dissension or blind fury in different groups of sharks. Here one must be experienced in dealing with a given group of sharks, for what enrages one group will pass unnoted by another.
It is scarcely necessary to state that it is unethical for a swimmer under attack by a group of sharks to counter the attack by diverting them to another swimmer. It is, however, common to see this done by novice swimmers and by sharks when they fall under a concerted attack.