It wouldn’t be summer without a shark attack headline, or two. Over the Fourth of July weekend, two shark encounters were reported on the California coast. The first shark attack took place near Oceano Dunes, where a shark bit a chunk out of a man’s surfboard; no injuries were reported. The second occurred near a fishing pier on Manhattan Beach. Reports indicate that Steven Robles was swimming near the pier and was bit by a great white that had been hooked by a fisherman and was thrashing in the water. Robles was hospitalized but has since been released. Research states that there have been 39 reported shark attacks in California between 2001 and 2013; the last fatal attack occurred at Surf Beach in 2012.
According to National Geographic, 2010 was the most dangerous year for shark attacks in a decade, with 79 reported attacks. On average only 60 people are attacked by sharks each year. The world’s most horrific shark attacks have involved maritime disasters in which numerous passengers are left helpless in shark-infested waters miles away from land; for example, in 1943, the Cape San Juan was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine resulting in 825 fatalities, 695 of which are believed to be shark attacks. However, single-victim shark attacks are as equally horrific and gruesome as larges-scale disasters. Despite the fact that a person has a 1 in 11 million chance of being killed by a shark during his or her lifetime, these are 7 of the worst shark attacks ever recorded.
7. Rodney Fox, 1963
Rodney Fox suffered a punctured diaphragm, pierced scapula and ripped lung. His ribcage and upper stomach were exposed, and rescuers, after pulling him from the water, had to keep his wetsuit on to prevent his organs from spilling out. Four hours of extensive surgery and 450 stitches later, Rodney Fox lived to tell his tale of being attacked by a great white and is regarded as a miracle survivor of one of the worst shark attacks in history.
Fox was defending his Australian spearfishing title when he wrangled with the great white. The shark grabbed him by his torso, but Fox gouged the beast in the eyes and it released him. On the second strike, Fox was able to pull his arm from the shark’s mouth. However, the shark came back again, this time dragging Fox along the ocean floor before finally releasing him.
Since the attack, Rodney Fox has become one of the foremost authorities on the great white shark. He is credited with designing the first underwater shark observation cage and has been involved in numerous expeditions, documentaries and feature films about the great white, working with scientific researchers from 16 different countries. In 2007, Fox was inducted into the International Scuba Hall of Fame.
6. Pacific Coast of the United States, 1984
The Shark Research Committee states that there were 108 authenticated shark attacks reported from the Pacific Coast of North America in the twentieth century, with 50 of those attacks directed at divers. In 1984, four shark attacks occurred near Santa Cruz, California, beginning with the violent death of Omar Conger, a 28-year old abalone diver.
Omar Conger was with his diving companion, Chris Rehm, when, according to Rehm, a great white reared out of the water and attacked him. “It grabbed him from behind, and while shaking him violently, pulled him under the water,” Rehm told great white researchers. The shark surfaced, charged at Rehm “like a submarine,” and released Conger. Rehm was able to pull Conger to shore on a flotation dive mat, but Conger died from massive blood loss. Bite marks and wounds suggest the shark was approximately 16-feet long. The three other shark attacks that occurred in nearby waters, in what was described at the time as a mini feeding frenzy, only resulted in minor injuries.
5. Singapore, 1909
In November 1909, the French steamer La Seyne was ferrying 100 passengers from Java to Singapore when, due to dense fog, it collided head-on with the Onda, a British-India Steamship Co. liner. The wreck occurred in the Rhio Strait, roughly 26 miles from land. The small French ship sank in under two minutes. The crew of the Onda saved 61 passengers, but many people ended up in the water. It’s estimated that 101 people were killed by sharks, including the captain of La Seyne, Joseph Coulailhac.
4. Seychelles, 2011
Ian Redmond, age 30, was on his honeymoon when he was attacked by a six-foot shark off Anse Lazio beach in the Seychelles. Redmond was snorkeling 20 yards from shore, and his wife, Gemma Houghton, was sunbathing on the beach. Married just 10 days, his wife witnessed the entire incident. Redmond had an arm and leg ripped off. The Daily Mail reported that beachgoers heard cries for help, and that after the attack a vacationer in a small boat pulled Redmond ashore, where a doctor provided first aid. Redmond bled to death on the beach.
What makes the tragedy even worse, however, is that it might have been avoided. Two weeks earlier, a young Frenchman was killed by a shark just 400 yards from where Ian Redmond was snorkeling. In a scenario reminiscent of Jaws, when Amity police chief Martin Brody keeps the beaches open despite his knowledge of a previous shark attack, the Seychelles tourism chief came under fire for not formally warning tourists about the potential danger.
3. The Jersey Shore, 1916
It’s been called The Case of the Jersey Man-Eater, or in later years, The Real New Jersey Jaws. The five shark attacks that occurred along the Jersey Shore over a 10-day period in 1916, during a blistering heat wave that drove millions of people to seaside resorts, created a widespread panic and media maelstrom. The first victim, 25-year old Charles Vansant, was attacked as he took an evening swim. Five days later, Charles Bruder was attacked off the beach at Spring Lake. The final three attacks took place at Matawan Creek, 30 miles north of Spring Lake. Four of the victims died, and the fifth survived with serious injuries. Since 1916, scientists have debated what type of shark was responsible for the attacks, with some believing it was a great white and others a bull shark.
2. Shirley Ann Durdin, 1985
Despite the fact Australia has a bad reputation concerning the threat of shark attacks, according to the Australian Shark Attack File there have been only 61 human fatalities in the last 50 years (1.22 per year), which is approximately the same average as Florida. However, it’s shark attacks like the one that killed Shirley Ann Durdin in 1985 that has given Australia the reputation as a place where one might want to think twice before getting in the water.
Shirley Ann Durdin, a 33-year old housewife and mother of four, was snorkeling for scallops in Peake Bay when, without warning, she was attacked by a great white in seven-foot deep water. On shore, 150 yards away, her husband and children watched as the shark brutally tore her in two. According to The Telegraph, when rescuers arrived all that remained was the victim’s headless torso, and the great white circled back and took that too. It was the first shark attack in South Australian waters in over 10 years. Witnesses estimated the shark to be 20-feet long.
1. USS Indianapolis, 1945
On July 25, 1945, the USS Indianapolis delivered the world’s first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian. Five days later, the U.S. warship was sent, unescorted, to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in preparation for the invasion of Japan. However, on July 30, midway between Guan and Leyte Gulf, a Japanese submarine fired six torpedoes at the Indianapolis, two of which struck the vessel. The first torpedo hit the bow, and the second struck near the fuel tank, splitting the warship in two. Of the 1,196 military personnel on board, 300 went down with the ship and 900 were tossed into the shark-infested Pacific Ocean. At sunrise the following day, shoals of oceanic white tip sharks started circling the sailors.
When rescuers arrived five days later, nearly 600 sailors were dead. The sharks had chewed most of the crew to pieces. Only 317 people survived the maritime disaster, one of who was Woody James who later said, “The sharks were around, hundreds of them… Everything would be quiet and then you’d hear somebody scream and you knew a shark had got him.”