Sunday, April 15, 2007

Great white shark visited surfers!

A SHARK that visited a popular Warrnambool surfing break last week was a deadly great white, an eyewitness believes.

But surfer Nick McCartney was more qualified than most to identify the notorious predator. He studies sharks as part of his marine biology degree at Deakin University's Warrnambool campus.
The 22 year-old Melburnian was surfing with two mates from Albury and Phillip Island at Granny's Grave last Wednesday when they saw the shark.

``I was surfing for a couple of hours in the morning _ between about 8am and 10am, and saw some movement about 100 or 200 metres offshore,'' he said.

``We stayed out there surfing for a while because we didn't know what it was.''

Mr McCartney said it was not until he got out of the water and looked back out to sea that he realised what it was.

``I looked back out and saw a big fin that kept popping up . . . it was thrashing around like it was eating something,'' he said.

``The shark was in the same spot for a while. Then a swell came through and in the swell we could see the big shadow of a shark.

``We told a few other surfers to get out of the water.''

Mr McCartney said the shark was too big to be a seal.

He said it came as close as 150 metres to the shore and he watched it for 10 to 15 minutes.
``It scared me for a bit, but it looked like it had no intentions of moving in any closer,'' he said.
``It seemed to be pretty focused on whatever it was doing out there.

``By the size of it, I think it was a great white.

``It may have been a thresher though because they have a large fin on their back.

``There's a fair few great whites at South Australia and reports of a few around Port Fairy so it wouldn't surprise if this was one.''

Mr McCartney said the shark was not a bronze whaler or a blue shark.

He said great white sharks were rare in the area and the Great Surf Coast was pretty safe and he was back in the water with his mates at Logans Beach the following day.

``It didn't worry me too much,'' he said. South Warrnambool premiership player and Maskell medallist Ben Kilday said he was about to go for a surf when Mr McCartney and his mates warned him against it.

``I was about to go out - luckily I didn't,'' he said.

``Sharks are obviously about, but you don't like to think about it too much.''


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