From the earliest recorded attack to a death caused by reality TV, here are 12 unbelievable shark attacks.
- Saved by Wet Suit
In 1963, freestyle diver, Rodney Fox, was taking part in a spear-fishing competition off the South Australian coast. Fox spotted a 20 lb fish, which would have been the prize catch of the day. He then noticed that the surrounding area had gotten still and most small fish had disappeared. At that moment, a great white shark grabbed him around the middle. Fox fought the shark hard, getting free at one point only to have the shark return to bite him again. Fox wrapped his arms around it, and he was taken for a terrifying ride as the shark tried to shake him off. The shark had Fox’s arm in his mouth, and when he yanked his arm out, the shark’s teeth shredded the skin all the way to the bone. After a hard struggle, Fox miraculously got free and people were able to pull him into a boat. His bones were visible on his right hand and arm, and his rib cage, lungs, and upper stomach were all completely exposed. His rescuers kept his wetsuit on, which kept his internal organs from spilling out, ultimately saving his life. Fox underwent just four hours of surgery and received 462 stitches to put his skin back together. He is still alive today to tell his tale of surviving an attack from one of the world’s greatest predators.
- One Legged Parliament
One of the earliest “famous” shark attacks involved a 14-year-old cabin boy named Brook Watson in 1749. While swimming in the Havana harbor, a shark (probably a tiger shark) grabbed Watson’s right foot. It dragged the boy underwater but a sailor with a boat hook came to the rescue. The man beat the shark back and Brook survived, though the doctors couldn’t save his right shin, which was amputated. The story might have ended there. However, Watson went on to become a member of Parliament and eventually lord mayor of England. He immortalized his encounter with the shark when he commissioned John Singleton Copley, who also painted numerous Revolutionary War scenes, to create “Watson and the Shark.” Supposedly, it scared the colonial children of the time.
- Captured on Film
Henri Bource is an underwater photographer and filmmaker. In 1964, near Lady Julia Percy Island off the coast of Australia, Bource and his companions went swimming with some seals. At first, everything was fine until a great white shark struck Bource from below and bit off his leg. His co-divers heard him scream and noticed his leg floating in the water. They were able to save Bource by lifting him out of the water and into the boat. According to Bource, he struggled to get his leg free from the shark’s mouth by gouging its eyes and jamming his hand down its throat. He survived the attack and inspired him to make a documentary out of the incident. Even more amazing, the whole thing was caught on film.
- 1916 Series of Attacks
Lester Stillwell, a twelve-year old boy was the first victim of a series of shark attacks in New Jersey. While swimming with his friend, a shark attacked Stillwell from below and dragged him under. Outraged by the attack, men went looking for the shark to avenge the child. Unfortunately, the shark went for the kill first and wounded Watson Fisher from his groin to his knee. He later died. Later, just a half mile from the spot where Fisher was attacked, a teenager boy named Joseph Dunn was also attacked with his leg bitten off. Luckily, he survived after he was immediately sent to the hospital. Eventually, two days later from the last attack, a great white shark was caught and cut open. In its belly, 15 pounds of human flesh and bones were found. The attacks went on to inspire the movie Jaws.
- Swallowed Whole
The horrifying story of Robert Pamperin goes back to June of 1959. It occurred in San Diego’s La Jolla Cove. Pamperin was diving for sea snails with his friend Gerald Lehrer. All seemed to be going smoothly, until Lehrer heard Pamperin scream. He looked over and saw Robert hoisted high out of the water without his mask. The entire lower half of his body was in the mouth of a Great White shark. Lehrer followed the shark under the water and tried to divert its attention, but it wouldn’t take the bait. At a loss, he swam to shore for help instead. By the time a rescue team got out there, all they could find was a lone swim fin. Gerald was quoted saying, “It was so big I thought at first it was a killer whale. It had a white belly and I could see its jaws and jagged teeth…It was between me and Bob and I could see him kicking his legs at it but it kept biting at him.” Further investigation revealed three events that may have attracted the Great White. Prior to their arrival at the cove, spear fishermen took several fish. Distress signals given off by speared fish may have been an attractant. Secondly, not far from La Jolla Cove was a harbor seal rookery, known prey of Great Whites. Lastly, and perhaps most significant, the previous evening a dead whale had washed up on the beach at La Jolla Shores, about a half-mile away. Currents and winds likely created a natural chum slick or “odor corridor” attracting the shark.
- Soul Surfer
In 2003, Bethany Hamilton was age 13. She was Hawaii’s top female surfer in her age group and one of the best in the United States. Onn the morning of Halloween, a 14-foot tiger shark attacked her. Bethany was lying on her surfboard with her left arm dangling in the water when the shark came up from below and bit off her arm at the shoulder. Her friends were able to apply a tourniquet and get help, but she lost over 60 percent of her blood and endured many surgeries in order to recover. Remarkably, losing her arm did not dissuade Hamilton from surfing. Within a month of her attack, she returned to surfing. In 2005, Hamilton won her first national title at the National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championships. Her story later became the basis for a big budget Hollywood movie called “Soul Surfer.”