​The Whalebone Guide to Survival at Sea

Even the Blue Jackets Manual, the basic handbook for United States Navy personnel, doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. The ocean has plenty of ways to kill you. Here’s how to get back to shore safely (most of the time).

Starfish Digestion

Starfish wrap their arms around their prey to hold them in place and pry shells open. The starfish then pushes one of its two stomachs out through its mouth and slips it inside the shell. The stomach then swallows the soft body and breaks it down into a liquefied form.

How to survive: Don’t be a bivalve.

Caught in a Riptide

A riptide (actually, technically a “rip current” if it’s in the ocean) is about as common at the beach as sunburn. This is when a current is pulling strongly out to sea, which is not the general direction you want to go most of the time.

How to survive: The rip current is only going to pull you out, but not under, and is a narrow channel. The current is pretty easily overcome if you swim parallel to shore until you’re out. That wasn’t too hard now, was it?

Kraken Released

Once the Kraken has been released, you just have to deal with him. The massive cephalopod has been known to take down entire ships in the North Sea around Norway and Greenland, wrapping its tentacles around them and breaking them into two.

How to survive: It’s a little-known fact that Krakens have a pretty lousy, but literal sense of humor. Try asking it, “Why is milk the fastest thing?” and then answer: “Because it’s pasteurized before you see it.” He’ll laugh his beak off and you can escape.

Stung by Box Jellyfish

We read somewhere that the box jellyfish is the most deadly creature in the world (we think we might have read that in the 2017 Whalebone Magazine Water Issue, when our fact-checking department was away on vacation). No point in quibbling, because the box jelly is basically like something right out of a horror movie, dragging long tentacles behind them in swarms, waiting for something (in this case, you) to get caught in the tentacles and then injecting venom that attacks the prey’s cardiovascular and nervous systems. The box jelly’s stinger cells detach and stay in the victim even if they have escaped the tentacles. The stings are agonizing and the extreme pain can last days. Chironex fleckeri, have been known to kill humans in less than five minutes.

How to survive: Dr. Angel A. Yanagihara, who became the world’s leading expert on box jellyfish the hard way, has developed a zinc gluconate-based treatment that has been used successfully to counteract the venom. Carry this if you think you are likely to encounter box jellyfish and you should survive the encounter. The stings still hurt like a bitch though.

Great White Shark Attack

We all know that a shark is a prehistoric killing machine that will, on a very rare occasion, mistake a surfer or swimmer for a seal. Good sense of smell, poor eyesight, those sharks.

How to survive: As Mick Fanning famously demonstrated, the old saw of punching a shark in the nose sort of works (well, it worked for him), but it isn’t always the best method. For one, if you miss, your hand is damn close to all those rows of sharp teeth. For two, the shark’s most sensitive areas are its eyes and gills, so try rapping it there.

Alternate methods:

1) Jam tank of pressurized gas in shark’s jaws and shoot it with a long rifle later while saying “Smile you son of a bitch” to trigger an explosion.
2) Entice shark to bite down on a large, conveniently placed, electric cable by pounding on it with a paddle.
3) Hopefully, a previous victim will be holding a live grenade and hanging out of the killer shark’s mouth and you can pull the pin and get out of the way real quick (the bloody explosion looks extra cool in 3-D).
4) Let’s say, however improbably, a great white follows you from New York to the Bahamas, and, in fact, beats you there, arriving before the plane you flew there on (which suggests that shark would be a pretty good travel agent). Improvise an explosive and also rig a device that emits electrical impulses that drive the shark crazy, stuff the explosive into its mouth, steer a sailboat with a broken bowsprit impaling the shark as it jumps out of the water (due to the electrical impulses you are bombarding it with) detonating the previously placed explosive device and KABOOM.

Swallowed by a Whale

Being swallowed whole by a giant whale isn’t something you want to have happen, but it isn’t all bad either. There’s at least as much room in there as you’ll find in most Manhattan studios, and a steady supply of fresh seafood, so you can live pretty large. This can actually be a life saver—just ask Jonah.

How to survive: The thing is to know your rights. If you are swallowed by a rent-controlled whale, you are protected from the absurd increases that have made inner-mammal living so pricey.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Somewhere out there in the ocean between Hawaii and California is an unrivaled accumulation of indestructible trash measuring 1.6 million square kilometers, (about three times the size of France, or, if you don’t do the metric system, you could almost fit three Texases in there). The plastic in the patch is increasing exponentially and being broken down by time and wave action into dangerous micro-plastics (which end up in the food chain when they are consumed by sea life).

How to survive: Stop fucking using disposable plastic. Oh, also it needs to be cleaned up or it will kill us all eventually.


The sweet and seductive songs of sirens have been responsible for luring boats towards rocks where they run aground, or enticing sailors to lean over the sides of their vessels and then grabbing them and pulling them down into the depths.

How to survive: Take off the grog googles, sailor—these harpies have skulls for faces.


A brutal and sadistic method of punishing pirates (and others) at sea concocted by the British Royal Navy, keelhauling involves tying a rope attached to a pulley around the victim’s ankles and hanging them upside down along the side of the boat. Another rope is then tied around the victim’s wrists, binding them together. That rope is then run under the boat and retrieved on the other side. The victim is then dragged slowly and steadily underwater along the boat’s barnacle-encrusted hull, both shredding their skin and drowning them.

How to survive: You don’t. Sorry.

From The Water Issue

Presented by YETI