Sunday, March 07, 2010

Teen dives with Great White sharks

Intrepid teen dives into close encounter

PREPARING FOR ACTION: Invercargill 14-year-old Lydia Ward (left, in cage) who was attacked by a shark at Oreti Beach last month and brother Alex, 10, prepare to face off with great white sharks off the coast of Stewart Island yesterday.

Lydia Ward
BITE BACK: 14-year-old Lydia Ward who was attacked by a shark at Oreti Beach last month.
Great White Shark
GREAT SIGHT: This was one of the smaller great white sharks seen by Invercargill 14-year-old Lydia Ward when in a cage off the coast of Stewart Island at the weekend.

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Five weeks after being bitten by a shark, an Invercargill teen on Saturday dived with her attacker's larger cousins – the great white.

Lydia Ward, 14, gained international media attention last month when she fought off a shark – believed to be a broadnose sevengill shark – with her body-board after it latched on to her right thigh at Oreti Beach.

On Saturday, Lydia again came face to face with a predator at the top of the ocean's food chain – albeit from the safety of a 2m-high dive cage.

Lydia, her father Tim and brother Alex, 10, flew from Invercargill to Stewart Island early on Saturday to be treated to an all-expenses-paid expedition courtesy of shark-dive operation Great White Southern Dive.

Lydia yesterday said a 3m-long great white had come within 1m of her soon after she got in the cage.

She said she didn't have any flashbacks of the Oreti Beach shark attack, but had been a bit wary of the great white.

"I was just staring at it ... and it looked like it was staring right at me. It had a lot of scars all over it."

The experience had been "really cool", Lydia said.

Mr Ward said his daughter had "hesitated very slightly" before getting into the cage, but she was fine once inside.

Though she had not swum at Oreti Beach since being attacked, Lydia believed she would be able to get back into the water, adding she had been coping just fine.

Her father agreed: "From the day after (the shark attack), when she realised she was at the wrong place at the wrong time and there was no man-eater cruising around looking for lunch, she was quite composed," Mr Ward said.

Great White Southern Dive operator Peter Scott said he had offered the cage experience after seeing how much attention Lydia's story had attracted.

"I didn't want people getting the wrong impression (of sharks)," he said. "There can't have been much else happening in the world."

Two or three great whites had been in the water near the cage throughout the day-long expedition for the Ward family, Mr Scott said.

"They just come – they're curious."


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