When A Guy Explored An Abandoned Zoo, He Spotted A Strange Shape Floating In A Murky Water Tank

In a long-abandoned wildlife park in southern Australia, there’s an enormous tank filled with a murky green substance. This liquid is known as formaldehyde, and in large doses it’s said to be carcinogenic. But that’s not the reason why the tank has taken the internet by storm. Instead, it’s what’s lurking within the formaldehyde that’s proven so compelling.

Once upon a time, the Wildlife Wonderland Giant Earthworm Museum in Melbourne, Australia, pulled in hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. In 2012, though, the animal park closed down forever. And while nearly all of the attraction’s inhabitants were ultimately recovered and rehoused, a single eerie relic was left behind. Then, six years later, a YouTuber discovered the last vestige of the park for himself. But what exactly did the adventurer unearth?

Well, Wildlife Wonderland – which is situated near to Westernport Bay – was originally opened in 1985 by a real estate professional named John Matthews. Along with its giant worm display, the park hosted areas for koalas and wombats, a café and a restaurant. And the exhibits were popular. In fact, around 350,000 visitors flocked to the tourist attraction annually.

After the park became a success, though, Matthews sought to sell it on. And that’s exactly what he did, handing Wildlife Wonderland over to a group of Chinese investors at the turn of the millennium. The facility would also go on to change owners once again before being shuttered altogether.

Ultimately, Australia’s Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) sounded the death knell for Wildlife Wonderland. According to the DSE, you see, the owners had evicted the park’s operator for attempting to run it without the necessary license. And as a consequence, Wildlife Wonderland was forced to close for good in February 2012.

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It’s said, though, that the DSE gave the operator plenty of opportunity to get the required license. And in 2012 department employee Ryan Incoll spoke to Australia’s ABC News about the matter, saying, “There were also a number of visits of our wildlife officers to the park to talk to the operator [and] to assist with getting that license. But he wasn’t in the place and didn’t obtain a license.”

In addition to those administrative issues, Wildlife Wonderland was also plagued in its later years by allegations of staff mistreating animals. At the time of the park’s closure, then, the DSE was apparently investigating these reports. The 130 animals living in the facility, meanwhile, were transferred with the help of the RSPCA to Healesville Sanctuary – a zoo in rural Victoria that specializes in native wildlife.

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Today, the entire complex lies abandoned, although it hasn’t been totally devoid of visitors in the years since it shut. Haunting images of the decaying park have frequently circulated online, in fact. And there are clear signs of squatters having set up in the bones of what was Wildlife Wonderland, too.

Then, in 2018 urban explorer Luke McPherson ventured into the park, where he filmed his journey through the abandoned rooms and exhibits. And in the nearly 29-minute video, it’s clear to see just how decrepit the one-time tourist attraction has become. Dirt and dust have settled on almost every inch of the complex, in fact, with much having since fallen into disrepair.

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Even the entrance to the facility has become unkempt, with outdoor ponds resembling something closer to swamps. And in the clip, McPherson approaches one of the buildings on the property only to be greeted by the sight of a dilapidated porch. There, a sign points to the long-defunct wombat habitat, while debris litters decking that is surrounded by damaged fencing.

McPherson then continues into the first room, which – according to a lopsided notice – was once a nursery for young orphaned wombats. But while a fur-like material continues to line the ceiling, the rocky walls are now covered in graffiti and lazy scrawls. And while it’s altogether a sorry sight, it’s still easy to imagine the area having once been a healthy home for the animals.

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Then, as McPherson and his companion delve deeper into the complex, they come across several more remnants of the old park. Photographs of its one-time inhabitants still line the walls of the enclosures, along with accompanying information for visitors. And the rocks circling the enclosures could at one point have been stood on by curious kids angling for a better view of the animals.

The buildings that previously housed animals aren’t the only parts of the park that have fallen into disarray, however. As McPherson and his friend continue their tour through the complex, they come across a number of rooms that may once have contained offices, or perhaps living facilities. It’s difficult to determine from the footage, as each room is a shabby, disorderly shadow of what it may once have been.

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Furniture – from desks and shelving units to couches and wardrobes – also lies strewn around many of these spaces. According to McPherson, though, the current inhabitants of the fixtures are possums who appear to have made themselves at home in the facility. But they may not be the only ones, as the large number of mattresses scattered throughout the abandoned sanctuary suggest.

Yes, there are hints of squatters having taken up residence in the abandoned park. In one room, McPherson finds discarded food packaging with a date of January 2017, while a fridge elsewhere turns up milk emblazoned with the month of April 2016. So, while the urban explorers don’t actually come across anyone living in the park during their visit, it seems that people may have done so in the past.

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But from there, things start to get a little creepier. In another room, McPherson stumbles upon a trove of discarded children’s clothes as well as a buggy, a hairbrush and toys. A magazine among the piles of items suggests that they were left in 2015 – three years after the park closed. Perhaps, then, a family were here at one point.

Yet that’s not even the strangest thing the duo inadvertently discover during their tour of the facility. Seemingly unbeknownst to them, McPherson and his companion will ultimately venture into an area that hosts Wildlife Wonderland’s only remaining attraction. And it’s this part of their video that has subsequently captured the attention of a global audience.

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Thanks to this incredible discovery, McPherson’s video has been widely shared across the web. In total, it’s racked up more than 14 million views and tens of thousands of comments since it was first uploaded. And going viral has only helped to draw more attention to the abandoned, once-forgotten animal park.

Among those comments were many shocked reactions – with a number expressing astonishment at what McPherson and his buddy eventually ended up finding. That said, the rest of the video also elicited some surprise from viewers. One person wrote, for example, “[The park] closed, and [the people] literally just dropped everything and left. I can’t believe there was still food in the fridge and old family pictures.”

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But while most abandoned attractions are at least a little creepy, there’s something particularly sinister awaiting the trespassing filmmakers. Indeed, when the duo first set foot on the property, they probably didn’t expect to stumble across one of nature’s greatest predators. Yet that’s exactly what they find as they enter one room.

In the video, as the camera pans around, we see signs on the wall referring to “a mouthful of teeth” and “the Phillip Island giant.” Then, McPherson shifts his gaze upwards and exclaims loudly, “What the hell? Can you guys see that?” Yes, floating in a tank of green liquid is a great white shark. And while the beast isn’t alive, its spine-chilling silhouette is still enough to strike fear into anyone’s heart.

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Then, after seeing McPherson’s YouTube clip, Don Kransky headed to the abandoned wildlife park to see the shark for himself. And armed with “painfully expensive gas-vapor respirators” to protect himself and his friend from the formaldehyde, he immediately found what he was looking for. “It was initially hard to make out the shark,” Kransky wrote for Vice in 2019. “But we let our eyes adjust, and its shape emerged, silhouetted by light pouring through a hole in the roof.”

And, as it happens, the formaldehyde hadn’t always been green; instead, it had turned that way as a result of damage to the tank. “It’s a big, murky tank because the filters haven’t been running,” one visitor to the center told the Phillip Island & San Remo Advertiser in 2019. “You couldn’t get into the shark, though, because the glass is two inches thick… There are [also] formaldehyde vapors coming out of the Perspex lid. It’s an eyesore.”

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Yes, the attraction had unfortunately fallen into disrepair. In 2019 McPherson said to the Seven Network, “The tank was huge and in bad condition, with a rusting metal frame and smashed panels of glass and trash thrown inside.” As a result, he could only linger in the room for a minute or so before the noxious odor from the formaldehyde fumes became too much.

Yet the shark – which has since been dubbed Rosie – wasn’t originally intended to be gazed at by tourists. Instead, the more than 15-foot great white had simply eaten her way into a pen of tuna in 1997, and so she’d had to be put down to protect the divers operating there. In 2019 local historian Eric Kotz told the Port Lincoln Times, “The argument to kill [Rosie] was that five divers and several other companies working in the area were at risk.”

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Rosie was then stored in a freezer by the Lukin family, who owned the fishing nets in which she’d been caught. And shortly after, ecotourism complex Seal Rocks Sea Life Centre – now known as the Nobbies Centre – expressed interest in purchasing the shark for display. Ultimately, though, the owners decided that they didn’t want to take possession of the animal, leaving Wildlife Wonderland to step in.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, transporting the more than two-ton creature to Bass proved problematic for the owners of the animal park. The endeavor was a huge logistical undertaking, in fact, necessitating the construction of an enormous steel frame to be placed inside a freezer truck. Then, when the shark arrived at the state border, the South Australian government impounded the vehicle.

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According to Wildlife Wonderland employee Max Bryant, Rosie was confiscated owing to an ongoing missing persons case. “A woman had gone missing on a beach, and they thought she may be in the shark,” he said to the Phillip Island & San Remo Advertiser. “So, the shark was taken to the South Australian Museum where it was thawed and dissected. But the woman wasn’t found in it.”

When the investigation of Rosie had concluded, though, she wasn’t put on ice again but inside a tank that had been created specifically for her. After that, she was cured in formaldehyde over a few months. And through this period of time, Rosie’s stomach started to become misshapen, meaning she ultimately had to be packed with polyester fiber. All in all, then, bringing the shark to Wildlife Wonderland cost the park around $500,000.

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The operation didn’t end when Rosie arrived at the animal park, however. The owners had to construct a new room for the shark, for one, before taking out the roof and using a crane to drop her in. A concrete bunker also had to be installed underneath the building to account for any potential formaldehyde leakages, while the tank itself required perpetual filtering and monitoring.

Yet all of the time, effort and expense that had gone into bringing Rosie to Wildlife Wonderland seemed at first to have paid off. The park began exceeding its regular visitor numbers, you see, with people flocking specifically to see Rosie. During that time, she was the biggest shark ever to be preserved. And, naturally, she became the focal point for a full exhibit on great whites.

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Over the years, then, Matthews has had plenty of calls asking him to revive the shark display. However, as it was a logistical nightmare to bring Rosie to the park in the first place, moving her again would be a “massive job,” as he put it to the Phillip Island & San Remo Advertiser. “It was a vibrant attraction, so I shudder every time I go past,” Matthews added. “I’ve never been back there since selling it.”

Not everyone has stayed away, though. In fact, in the wake of McPherson’s video, people reportedly started flocking to the site. Despite warnings from local police to stay away or risk trespassing charges, vandals nevertheless encroached on the property and attempted to smash Rosie’s tank. And while the interlopers didn’t succeed in breaking through the three-inch glass, they cracked it enough to release some of the dangerous carcinogen within.

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Although formaldehyde is generally in the air that we breathe, it’s at extremely low levels. As such, it’s not really a danger to anyone except those already most susceptible to breathing difficulties. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, though, high levels of exposure to formaldehyde have been linked to lung and oral cancers.

Furthermore, contact with the substance can also result in conditions such as pneumonia and dermatitis. In enclosed or poorly ventilated areas, it can even kill through suffocation. Yet with all that in mind, in 2019 an EPA Victoria spokesperson told news.com.au that it was “aware of the shark and tank and [did] not consider them to be hazardous.”

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Meanwhile, as word of Rosie began to spread, concerned campaigners set up a Facebook page dubbed “Save Rosie the Shark.” And the ploy seemed to work. In February 2019 it was reported that Wildlife Wonderland’s owners had arranged for the animal to be taken to Crystal World – a nearby center housing the world’s largest collection of crystals, gems and minerals.

Crystal World is now adding Rosie to its Prehistoric Journeys Exhibition Centre, following an extensive restoration process to her damaged tank. That move was set in motion after Sharon Williamson, an employee at Crystal World, spotted the ferocious creature on her Facebook page. And not long after, she began campaigning for her workplace’s owner to save the shark.

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“Otherwise, [Rosie] was going to go to landfill,” Williamson told the Herald Sun in 2019. “It was quite logistical, getting it out here and the emptying it.” According to Crystal World director Tom Kapitany, Rosie was in surprisingly good condition, too – especially considering the fact that she’d been abandoned for years. And, now, the center is attempting to preserve the shark in glycerin for centuries to come.

“I told my staff, ‘Go and save her. I don’t care what it costs; just save her,’” Kapitany told the Port Lincoln Times. “I couldn’t see such a beautiful animal, dead or alive, destroyed.” It seems, then, that the Facebook page did the job, according to its founder Trent Hooper. In 2019 he told the Daily Mail, “It’s such a great outcome. Australia rallied together to save Rosie and get her a forever home at Crystal World.”

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For Kapitany, meanwhile, saving the great white shark was about preserving her past. That includes the damage her tank suffered from vandals at Wildlife Wonderland, which will be left untouched. So, after years of languishing in an abandoned park, Rosie will finally go on display once again, with no charge to visitors. And any money raised from merchandise sales is set to be donated towards shark conservation and study – a fitting continuation of this creature’s incredible story.

For the urban explorer that first discovered Rosie, it was a dead great white that awaited him. But what if we were to find ourselves in the presence of a shark on the prowl in open waters? Well, an ex-navy SEAL named Clint Emerson may have the answer. In March 2017 he shared an important tip that could help you survive should you find yourself face to face with one of the ocean’s most terrifying predators while swimming in open waters.

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Since Jaws hit the big screen back in 1975, many of us have developed a fear of getting into open water. And even if you’ve never seen that film, the very thought of happening upon a hungry shark is pretty scary. Yet even though attacks of the fatal kind are fairly rare, they do still happen in certain parts of the world. One of the worst incidents, of course, came in 1945 when sharks ruthlessly slaughtered 579 men following the torpedoing of the USS Indianapolis.

So some people would no doubt like to prepare themselves for potential encounters with sharks. And given the interest – and well known fears – there are countless tips online that detail what you should do if you ever end up in such a situation. But Clint Emerson is a former Navy SEAL – so when he talks, you really should listen. To that end, Emerson decided to share a couple of fascinating tidbits with Business Insider in 2017.

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And as we mentioned, Emerson’s expertise in the survival stakes speaks for itself. He was once a member of Navy SEAL Team Six, after all. This is the unit that was responsible for killing Osama bin Laden in 2011. After two decades on the job, though, Emerson eventually retired and started writing books – including 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide.

But while his books cover a lot of ground, what we’re really interested in here is Emerson’s advice related to protecting against shark attacks. Yet such an event may not always be the first thing that comes to mind while enjoying a relaxing time in the ocean. On certain occasions, however, our aquatic adventures can take rather terrifying turns.

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There may be a time when we come across a fish that intends to attack us beneath the surface, for instance. A shark would seemingly fit that description – but the predators don’t actually engage with humans all that often. As CNN revealed back in 2015, the likelihood of getting ambushed by a killer shark are “around one in 11.5 million.”

But that’s not to say that incidents with the fish don’t happen at all. In fact, the International Shark Attack File (ISAF) compiles in-depth statistics on this subject throughout the year. And as it turns out, there are two kinds of encounters that are recorded more than any other.

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These two types of encounters with sharks are known as “provoked” and “unprovoked” attacks. Like the labels clearly suggest, the former indicates that the victims might’ve unwittingly encouraged the sharks to pounce on them. The latter, meanwhile, is on the opposite end of the spectrum: implying that the individuals did nothing to bring about the attacks.

The unprovoked attacks appear to take center stage when discussing the ISAF statistics online, though. For example, back in 2005 National Geographic revealed that 61 incidents of that type had happened around the world in the preceding year. And from that number, seven of the people involved had lost their lives.

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In the period between 2013 and 2017, meanwhile, ISAF recorded an average of 84 unprovoked attacks per year. And to zero in on a particular year, 72 of these incidents occurred in 2014 – leading to three deaths. Taking a closer look at that data, too, another interesting bit of information comes to light.

Should you be someone who’s concerned about the locations of these shark attacks, the ISAF records make things pretty clear. Back in 2014, you see, most of the unprovoked attacks happened in the United States. The second-highest number of attacks – including two of the three recorded deaths – occurred in Australia. The third death happened in South Africa.

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ISAF released the stats for 2018 via the Florida Museum’s official website. And at first glance, it seemed that some of the figures had taken a dip compared to the average from previous years. Yet the overall number of shark attacks was still fairly notable – proving that people continued to come across the predators in open water.

The website’s post read, “The International Shark Attack File investigated 130 incidents of alleged shark-human interaction occurring worldwide in 2018. Sixty-six cases represent confirmed unprovoked shark attacks on humans. [And] 34 of the remaining cases were confirmed as provoked attacks on humans.”

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The post continued, “Of the remaining 30 cases, nine involved bites to motorized or non-motorized marine vessels (boat attacks), four involved shark-inflicted post-mortem bites (scavenge), [and] five were cases in which the shark-human interaction could not be confirmed based on the available data.” From there, the website rounded off ISAF’s analysis.

The post concluded, “[There was] one case in which the attack involved an animal that may have been habituated to the presence of humans in the area, and one case involved a diver in a public aquarium. Ten cases were regarded as ‘doubtful,’ in which the incidents did not involve a shark – including one case attributed to an eel and [another] to a barracuda.”

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ISAF also provided some intriguing information about the sharks themselves. You see, since it started compiling figures back in 1958, the database has listed which species of sharks have been involved in the most attacks down the years. And the leader in that regard might not be that surprising.

Yes, according to ISAF’s records, the great white shark has been responsible for over 300 unprovoked attacks – 80 of which resulted in someone’s death. The tiger shark, which has carried out 111 unprovoked attacks, is a distant second. After that comes the bull shark, with 100 incidents recorded.

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And one of the most high-profile attacks of the past few years was actually captured on camera in 2015. At the time, in fact, a man named Mick Fanning was taking part in the J-Bay Open surfing competition in South Africa. Then he was approached by a great white shark while in the water.

Speaking to CNN later, Fanning recalled, “I sort of sensed something behind me. And then all of a sudden I just jumped on my board, and I was [like], ‘Okay, something’s going on.’” The surfer’s instincts proved to be correct, too, as the shark grabbed hold of his “leash,” which is the bit of material that connects a person to their board.

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“I felt myself getting dragged under by my leash,” Fanning continued. “And the next thing I know, I saw his fin and went on my board. [When it came back] I went again on my board, and it was, like, me or the shark. I think I tried to punch it.” In the end, then, the great white broke his leash – and Fanning managed to hurriedly swim to safety.

Fanning’s comment brings up an interesting aside. When it comes to shark attacks, you see, one of the most common myths is that a swift punch to the shark’s body will scare it off. As you heard, Fanning even admitted that he had attempted to land a blow on the great white during their terrifying tussle. But experts aren’t actually too sure about the effectiveness of that particular move.

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In fact, Ryan Johnson – who studies sharks firsthand – believes that a certain bit of contact could put you in real danger. He told the BBC in 2017, “If you start touching them around the snout, they can pick up your electro-receptions, and they know you’re possibly edible.” So Johnson claims that you should instead hit the fish with “hard” objects, such as cameras, rocks or sticks.

Johnson also dispelled the idea that swimming away from an approaching shark is a good move. In his view, in fact, this would only encourage the predator to continue its pursuit. The expert therefore put forward an alternative method that could save your life in that situation.

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Johnson said, “The worst thing is to try to run away. It’s like throwing a stick for a dog. Fleeing often can entice a shark. Standing your ground and trying to make yourself big and going vertical in the water is always the best response to make a shark keep its distance from you.”

And if the shark does attack you, Johnson’s suggestion of using a “heavy object” to defend yourself has been backed up elsewhere. In fact, a wildlife writer named Richard Peirce agreed with that particular method – while also debunking another form of self-defense. According to him, you see, sharp weapons such as knives won’t help you.

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On the subject of knives, Peirce told the BBC, “Gosh, no! [They are] hopeless, hopeless. All you’re going to do is excite the animal. You’ve got a little knife four, six, eight inches long, and you’ve got a two or three or four-meter white shark or a three or four-meter tiger shark [coming at you].”

Peirce added, “There’s no chance whatsoever of fighting the shark [with a knife]. And if you do start it bleeding, you could well attract other animals in.” And someone else also offered their own bit of advice on the matter of staving off shark attacks in March 2017 – as we’re about to discover.

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Yes, Clint Emerson shared some words of wisdom during an interview with Business Insider. As previously mentioned, he used to serve as a Navy SEAL before calling it a day some two decades into the job. And given his experience of the world, Emerson believes that one method in particular will protect you in a shark attack.

Emerson said, “Keep your eyes on [the shark], first and foremost. Know that they attack bottom-up. They tend to come straight up at you. To be realistic, throwing a punch in the water is like slow motion. Anybody that can pull it off and actually cause damage, give me a call.”

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“But, the gills and the eyes are probably your highest chance of creating pain,” Emerson explained. “Once again, just like with anything, you want to create pain, you want to induce pain, and hopefully it leaves you alone. That is the number one goal.” From there, the ex-Navy man had one last thing to say on the subject.

Emerson concluded, “Create distance if you can, but as a last resort, you go for the gills, you go for the eyes. You literally want to shove your thumbs into the shark’s eyes. If you grab the gills, you want to stick your fingers in the vents, and you want to try and rip them out.”

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Business Insider also uploaded Emerson’s advice regarding shark attacks to YouTube in April 2017. The video has since earned more than 350,000 views and over 3,400 likes. Alongside that, it’s generated in excess of 630 comments, as online users shared their reactions.

A few of those users brought up an interesting point in their respective responses, though. One wrote, “How do I get close to [the shark’s] eyes and gills without him ripping me in half? I mean, there is a shark triple my size coming from below me like a freaking rocket with its mouth wide open.”

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The person added, “I’m supposed to dodge that in slow motion water and attack his eyes and gills? Do I look like some damn underwater samurai to you?” And those words were echoed by a fellow YouTube user, who’d apparently had a bit of experience in the water themselves.

This user, who said they were a surfer, couldn’t help but agree with the previous sentiment. The thought of going on the offensive against a shark seemed overwhelming – especially knowing the damage that they can do. So off the back of that, this individual had some advice of their own to any other surfers out there.

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The YouTube user wrote, “When you are in the position to stick your fingers in the gills, you will already miss a leg or a part of your stomach, if [we’re talking] about a single big shark. If it really tries to bite you, and you’re at least fortunate enough to have your board near you – try to bring the board between you two.”

“Aim for the eyes when it concentrates on the board,” the user added. “But I’m only a surfer who had the luck [of] never seeing one getting aggressive.” Despite those doubts, though, someone else claimed that Emerson’s tip does actually work – and they shared their experience in the comments section.

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According to this particular user, one of their friends faced down the threat of an aquatic predator during a surfing session. And much like Fanning, they escaped the subsequent encounter with their life – but it did come at a cost. You see, the shark apparently left its mark before it was scared off.

The YouTube user wrote, “I’m in Australia, and years ago when [I was] in high school, a fellow classmate was attacked by a bull shark while surfing. Only 15 at the time, he managed to escape by hitting it in the gills. It let go of him and swam away.”

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To conclude the dramatic story, the person added, “But [the shark chewed] on [my classmate’s] leg. He had about 30 to 50 stitches in the end. He was extremely lucky, as bull sharks are known for not letting go of their prey, as they eat most things.” So although he allegedly didn’t come out unscathed, this anecdotally proves that Emerson’s method has some weight to it.

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