Ruthless and dangerous creatures of the sea or often misunderstood fish with too many teeth to deal with? Whatever your view, there is no doubt that sharks can cause some serious damage with films and media often heightening the fear of them throughout popular culture. The fact remains that it is highly unlikely you will ever suffer from a shark attack but here are some stories of real-life incidents that actually happened.
1. First Known Survivor
With a famous painting by John Singleton Copley to commemorate the event, the story of Brook Watson certainly is an unfortunate one. A 14-year-old boy working on a trading ship, Brook Watson was enjoying swimming with other crew members in the port in Havanna, Cuba, where the ship he worked on was docked.
Splashing around in the waters caught the attention of a nearby shark which took Watson for an easy meal. Biting at his leg, Watson managed to survive the attack as other crew members came to his aid but he lost his leg in the attack and, in 1749, became the first known survivor of a shark attack.
2. Riding The Back of The Beast
Surfer Doug Niblack was on his board when he was knocked off balance and found himself standing on top of something else for a fleeting moment. Realizing the object was moving out to sea and noticing its protruding fin, he rapidly hopped back onto his board and paddled for his life back to shore as the shark left him be.
Sharks are notoriously short-sighted creatures and may have thought Doug was a seal, and realizing he wasn't a tasty bag of blubber as it approached it is feasible it nudged him out of curiosity rather than intent to attack, hence Doug's lucky escape.
3. Battling The Bite
Spearfishing from his boat on an Australian beach, Rodney Fox was attacked by a great white shark that dragged him into the water. Biting at him, Fox fought to free himself from the fish's powerful jaws by gouging at its eyes and, angered and hungry, the animal took two more chunks out of the man before deciding the fightback was too dangerous and swimming off.
Fox was hauled back into the boat with exposed bones, internal organs, punctured lung and broken ribs that took 4 hours of surgery to get him back into a fit state. 300 stitches later and Fox lived to tell the tale!
4. Fins On Film
The photographer and filmmaker Henri Bource were swimming with seals off of Lady Julia Percy Island in Australia in order to get some decent footage of the sea creatures. Mistaken for one of the animals he was trying to film, Bource was struck from beneath by a ravenous shark and caught his leg in its mouth.
Trying to free himself from its grip, Henri took to gouging its eyes and jamming his hand down its throat but the animal bit down severing Henri's leg from his body and causing him to scream so loudly that the rest of his crew suddenly became aware of his plight. Hauling him back into the boat, they saw his leg floating in the water but managed to get Bource to a hospital. With footage of the incident, Bource went on to make a documentary about the incident and it didn't stop him returning the water as he had a customized flipper leg made for him.
5. Terror On Top Of Turmoil
The USS Indianapolis was a cruiser in the US Navy that, in 1945, had just delivered parts for a nuclear bomb to the Titian islands. Upon its return, it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes that left 900 sailors floating helplessly at sea.
Attracted by the large number of men and the blood from their injuries, the next morning sharks surrounded the sailors and began to pick them off one by one. For those that were lucky enough to avoid shark attack they still had to contend with thirst and hunger and from a crew of 1,196, only 317 survived the whole ordeal.
6. Ongoing Attacks
In 1916 a 12-year-old boy was fatally attacked by a shark off the coast of New Jersey and was dragged under whilst out swimming in the waters. Outraged by the incident, a group of men set out to kill the animal only for one of them to end up on the sharp end of the shark as Watson Fisher was bitten on the leg and died from his serious wounds from knee to groin.
Half a mile from the first attack, another boy succumbed to the shark and lost a leg but, being immediately rushed to hospital saved his life. Two days later a great white was caught and killed and found to have 15 pounds of human flesh and bones in its stomach.
7. Self Sacrifice
Helping out in a local lifeguard demonstration, brothers Achmat and Tariq Hassiem were in the water when a shark approached. Tariq, playing the part of an unconscious victim was unaware of the shark bearing down on him but Achmat acted quickly and began to frantically thrash the water and splash about in order to gain the sharks attention rather than have it focus on his younger brother. Biting off his leg, Achmat then managed to swim to shallower waters, out of further danger and surviving the ordeal having saved his sibling.
Achmat went on to become a Paralympic medallist for South Africa in swimming and now helps create marine sanctuaries, with a focus on sharks.
8. Undeterred Surfer
Bethany Hamilton was only 13 when she lost her arm to a shark attack as she lay idly on her surfboard dangling it over the edge. Her friends reacted quickly and got her out of the water and to a hospital with haste and a month after the incident, Bethany was back in the water not going to be deterred from doing what she loves most by fear of another attack.
She is now a professional and champion surfer despite only having one arm.
9. Plunged Into Tragedy
Randall Fry and Cliff Zimmerman were free diving near the shore of Westport, California, hunting for abalone.When returning to the boat they had set off from, Zimmerman noticed Fry was no longer next to him as he felt rapid movement in the water next to him.
Seeing only the giant fish swimming past him, he headed straight back to the boat as fast as he could but Randall Fry was nowhere to be found. Blood was in the water and later Fry was found, head severed from his body, dead and shredded in the water.
10. Flesh Wounds
Seth Mead had encountered sharks in the water before when surfing and had hastily exited the water with no problem but when lounging on his board one day a shark struck and sunk its teeth into his leg.
Unlike most attacks though, it didn't shake Seth about and was probably just curious as to what he was but with no hands to feel sharks tend to use their mouths to discover new things which can be...painful. Fortunately, it let go and Seth escaped with only flesh wounds.
11. Lucky Escape
John Forse was a long-time beach surfer but in 1998 he suffered something he never thought he'd have to deal with when a shark shot out of the water at Gleneden Beach and dragged him underwater. “I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t think too much about it.
Two minutes later, something grabbed me and pulled me down about 10 feet.” Forse managed to struggle himself free and swim to shore. Wounded but otherwise, in one piece, Forse went to a hospital but recovered from the incident.
12. Heavy Hitter
The J-Bay Open in South Africa is a highly lauded event in the pro-surf calendar and in 2015 it was broadcast live across the world. Surfer Mick Fanning felt something playing with his board's leash and noticed a massive shark trailing behind him.
Jumping out of the way, the shark went for his board before turning its attention towards him but Fanning got in there first landing blows on the Shark so that it turned tail and swam away. With a damaged board and a little shaken up, Fanning was otherwise unharmed when rescuers pulled him from the water.
13. Attacking The Navy
Whilst performing an anti-terrorist exercise in Sydney Harbour, Navy diver Paul Degelder was taken by surprise by a shark just off of the dock.
Losing his hand and part of his leg, Navy exercises in the harbor were promptly suspended after the incident. Paul still surfs at nearby Bondi beach and is now a motivational speaker.
14. Saved By Dolphins
Whilst swimming out from Shore beach in New Zealand, Rob Howe, his daughter, and her two friends were surrounded by 7 dolphins who circled the group flapping their tails in an unusual fashion. Not aware of what the animals were up to, the group were amazed only to realize there was also a shark circling them.
Heading back to shore as quickly as possible, the dolphins accompanied all the way in until they were safely on land.
15. Dead In The Water
Abalone hunting in Santa Cruz, California, Omar Conger and Chris Rehm were free diving just 150 meters from the coast when Omar was attacked by a shark, dragging him under the water and shaking him violently side to side. Rehm began to swim for safety but was soon confronted by the shark himself with Conger still in its mouth.
Driving at him, the shark then released Omar Conger and decided against a second attack so Chris Rehm seized his friend and pulled him onto the floatation mat they had with them. Before they could reach shore though, Conger had died of blood loss.
16. Dangerous Documentary
In 2013, the NatGeo channel was filming their incredibly popular TV show Shark Men off the coast of South Africa, dumping tons and tons of chum into the sea in order to attract the great predators towards them for filming. Within days of chumming the water, Champion surfer David Lilienfeld and his younger brother were out paddling in the water with their body boards when a 16ft great white shark attacked from beneath and dragged him under the waves, severing his right leg from his body.
His younger brother, Gustav, managed to drag him to shore but David was dead before help could arrive and the fingers were pointed at the documentary crew for luring sharks so close into shore and needlessly endangering lives.
17. Protective Pod
Another example of Dolphins protecting humans from a shark, in 2009, Todd Endris was surfing off the coast of Monterrey, California when a 15ft shark attacked him three times shredding the skin off of his back, and mauled his right leg to the bone when a pod of dolphins intervened and forced the shark away from Tod.
They then formed a protective ring around Tod as he made his way to shore to seek serious medical attention. Needing physical therapy to help him walk again, this sort of action was widely considered a miracle for Tod who had his life saved.
18. Tragic Champion
Elio Canestri was a 13-year-old surfing champion when he went to the French holiday island of reunion. A skilled surfer, Elio was used to the strong waves but did not expect a shark attack and was bitten in the stomach and had his limbs torn off in a shark attack as he surfed in an area off limits to people because of its known dangers.
So vicious was the attack that several witnesses, including other children, had to be treated for trauma.
19. The Sinking of La Seyne
In December of 1909, French liner La Seyne collided with a British India Steam Navigation ship called Onda off the coast of Singapore as the two failed to spot each other in the thick fog rolling over the waters. La Seyne sank like a stone with many trapped inside or under its great awnings on the top deck.
Of those who did manage to escape, a few were instantly picked up by the Onda but for those who lingered in the water a little longer, they were picked off by sharks in the water.
20. Honey Moon Horror
Taking a romantic holiday shortly after their wedding day, Ian and Gemma Redmond were in the Seychelles when tragedy struck. As Gemma sunbathed on the beach, Ian went out into the clear waters to snorkel and was close enough to shore for Gemma to see the orange band around the top of his snorkel.
However, as Ian looked at the fish beneath him a Tiger shark attacked him from behind and tore at his body. Ian was dragged out of the water by a nearby boat and brought into shore where Gemma ran to him and cradled his head telling him ‘You’re going to be all right. We’re going to look after you, we’re going to sort you out' but she was soon dragged away. Ian didn't survive.