Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Diver swallowed by a great white shark, Jaws style

A SCUBA diver was swallowed almost whole by a great white shark yesterday in a Jaws-style attack just offshore from Cape Town.

Conservationists are now expecting renewed calls for killer sharks to be hunted down following the death of medical student Henri Murray, 22 - the latest in a series of attacks. Great whites have been a protected species in South African waters since 1990, but calls for a cull have been growing following the deaths of several South African swimmers and surfers this year.

Two British surfers survived - although one needed 200 stitches to leg wounds and the other had to have 100 stitches to torn hips and buttocks. In yesterday's attack, Mr Murray's diving partner, 23-year-old Piet van Niekerk, shot the great white with his speargun in a desperate attempt to drive it away, but he did not see his friend again.

Dave Estment, a yachtsman, was sitting on the jetty at Simon's Town, near Cape Town, when he saw the great white breach the surface.

"It was incredibly fast. The two spear fishermen were not far from the beach. Suddenly a huge shark surged from under the water taking the one diver [from his legs upwards] to his arms in its jaws," he said.

"It must have been massive to have done that. Then the shark and the man just vanished." Other witnesses to the attack estimated the shark's length at 20 feet.

Hundreds of onlookers lined the coastal road yesterday as a helicopter, police diver and boat search was carried out in an unsuccessful attempt to find the body of Mr Murray, who was studying at the University of Stellenbosch.

Divers from the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) recovered a weightbelt - so damaged that it looked as though it had been sliced through with a knife - a mask, a speargun, a rubber flipper and a buoy with speared fish that had been attached to a trailing line.

NSRI spokesman Craig Lambinon said he believed the shark could have been attracted by the fish. Great white shark tour operators, who lower visitors in cages among the great whites, use chopped-up fish to lure sharks to the cages.

Dr Cleeve Robertson, head of Cape Town's emergency services, said Mr Van Niekerk, a university friend of Mr Murray, was extremely traumatised by the attack.
He and members of Mr Murray's family were receiving counselling.

Dr Robertson said the spear, designed for smaller fish, was unlikely to have caused much damage to the great white.


Blogger Wednes Fri said...

Wow! That is just terrifying. However, I don't think lifting the protection of sharks will reduce the number of attacks. If people were more aware of shakr attack patterns and could avoid the water at peak times, that would help. It also sounds like they have a problem with people chumming too close to where divers/swimmers are. They can't really go out of thier way to attract sharks, then act all outraged when one attacks.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Helena said...

In this day and age, how can you enter waters that you know have sharks in them, participate in an activity that you know will stimulate them, and get up in arms when one attacks?!? Imagine if people ran around game parks dragging carcasses behind them?? Would they not expect some interest from the hungry eyes around??

8:54 AM  

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