8 Fake Viral Shark Photos That Fooled The World (And 8 That Were Real)

There’s no denying that sharks are terrifying sea creatures. While not all sharks may be after humans, seeing these sharp-toothed creatures in photographs is enough to scare us senseless. If most of us were to come in contact with a shark in person we’d probably be paralyzed with fear.

We have all seen shark attack videos and photos. They’re absolutely terrifying. We all know that if one came face to face with a shark, there would be little chance of survival. Yet not all shark videos and photos are real. Some are fake, created by hoaxers to garner attention, likes, and shares. And most of the time, these shark hoaxes are successful. In fact, we only learn that they are fake after they go viral. When we do finally realize that the whole thing was a hoax we feel incredibly silly.

But then, of course, some videos and photos of sharks are very real, even if they may not seem so at first glance. It’s terrifying to know that these images and videos are not hoaxes but the real thing. We can only hope that we never have the ill fortune of running into a shark.


16 Real: Surfer Punches A Shark And Escapes Unharmed

In 2015, snaps from a terrifying surfing video went viral. The video and the pictures were taken during a surfing competition in South Africa and showcase a surfer being attacked by a shark. In an effort to defend himself, the world champion surfer, Mick Fanning, punched the shark in the face and escaped unharmed to the shore.

After viewing the video the shark expert George Burgess said it is unlikely that the shark was going to attack the surfer – “It was a situation where the white shark was obviously interested in the human. But the reality is that this situation was more likely to be a situation where the shark was investigating a floating object at the water’s surface than a full scale attack.”

15 Fake: Hurricane Harvey Shark


Hurricane Harvey caused a lot of flooding in Houston which resulted in lots of destruction and chaos. As if that wasn’t enough, a terrifying photo of a shark on the flooded streets of a motorway in Houston appeared on the internet and of course, immediately went viral.

The photo was posted by the Twitter user Jason Michael who said – “Believe it or not, this is a shark on the freeway in Houston, Texas. #HurricaneHarvy”

However, as Snopes has discovered years ago, the great white shark from the viral photograph comes from a 2005 magazine issue of Africa Geographic. Over the years a number of hoaxers have photoshopped the shark into urban settings. The shark photo has gone viral during Hurricane Irene in 2011, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and during flash floods in Texas in 2015.

14 Real: Tiger Sharks Feast On Dead Whale

A video and snaps made by a drone that belongs to Eco Abrolhos, a company that provides “charters to the Abrolhos Islands, Geraldton and beyond for over 30 years” went viral last year and still continues to astound and terrify to this day.

The image shows about 70 or more tiger sharks attacking a dead whale. This gruesome, terrifying attack turned the clear blue waters of the Shark Bay in Australia red.

Two boats of tourists who were on their way to the Dirk Hartog Island in Western Australia witnessed the morbid event and said – “We liked, liked, liked. Awesome day yesterday, thank you so much.”

13 Fake: Shark Attacks Helicopter


From time to time a photo that shows a shark attacking a helicopter still emerges on the internet and still shocks those seeing it for the first time. The image was captioned as – “AND YOU THINK YOU’RE HAVING A BAD DAY AT WORK!! Although this looks like a picture taken from a Hollywood movie, it is, in fact, a real photo, taken near the South African coast during a military exercise by the British Navy. It has been nominated by National Geographic as 'THE photo of the year'.”

Of course, the photo is actually fake – the photo of the shark was taken by South African photographer Charles Maxwell and the photo of the helicopter was taken by Lance Cheung. The two photos were spliced together and the “shark attack” image was first sent out via email in 2001.

12 Real: Surfing With A Shark

It’s not uncommon to surf with dolphins and, as most surfers will tell you, it’s quite an enjoyable experience. However, no surfer wants to surf with sharks. And certainly no parent wants to see his or her child ripping waves with a shark nearby.

However, that’s exactly what one parent witnessed in January 2017 when his 10-year-old son, Eden Hasson, was catching a wave with a great white shark dipping underwater on the shoulder.

Some people expressed doubts over the photo’s authenticity but Eden’s father, Chris Hasson said – “I’ve been surfing for 30 years, many of those competitively. I know the difference between a shark and surfer when I see it.”

11 Fake: Excellent Photoshop Skills


The photo was originally posted by a man from Brigantine, NJ named Kevin McCarthy on his Facebook page but has since been removed. McCarthy actually posted two images of sharks in urban areas following the flooding after hurricane Sandy and of course insisted that both images were genuine.

Of course, while the images may have fooled some (they did go viral after all), McCarthy’s friends saw right through him from the very beginning and congratulated him on his Photoshop skills. One of his friends even commented saying – “That’s the leopard shark from la Jolla cove nice try kevO.”

10 Real: A Curious Shark

In 2015, a photograph of a shark in close proximity to Australian filmmaker Dave Riggs’ hand made headlines. The headlines focused on the shark’s “razor-sharp teeth” and on the “blood still smeared” on the shark “after a fresh kill”.

However, while the terrifying photo is real, Riggs admitted that the encounter with the curious shark was far less frightening than it looks because the shark was not at all aggressive – “This photo is quite dramatic. But it really highlights how awesome these apex predators are. Great whites don’t have hands, so she was researching the only way she knows how, which is with her mouth. I wanted to post [the photo] because it’s real, but she wasn’t being aggressive. She wasn’t attempting to kill anyone.”


9 Fake: Selfie Before Fatal Attack


In 2014, the news website World News Daily Report published a shocking article about an Oregon man who was attacked by a shark while on his honeymoon in Florida. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the man and the shark – the man supposedly managed to snap a selfie of himself and the shark moments before he was attacked.

According to the story, local lifeguards brought the man onto a boat and then to the shore from where he was transported to the hospital. The shark had torn off the man’s leg and as a result, he was losing a lot of blood. The just recently married man died on the way to the hospital, in the arms of his beloved new wife.

The story spread on social media and most of those who encountered it assumed it to be true. However, it later turned out that the “selfie” was actually a combination of two photos – one of the Fall Out Boy frontman Pete Wentz swimming in a swimming pool and one of a shark.

8 Real: Shark Baiting

In 2014, a photo of a shark lunging for fish bait went viral and caused a heated discussion on whether it’s ethical to bait sharks for the amusement of tourists. The photo was taken by a New Jersey schoolteacher, Amanda Brewer, who was diving off Seal Island in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

Brewer explains that while the shark may appear terrifying in the photo, she was not at all scared in real life – “I wasn’t afraid at all. Once you see them up close, you gain an enormous respect for them. They’re beautiful, powerful, and intelligent, and it erases all the fear.”

7 Fake: Taming A Shark By Grabbing His Nose


In 2016, an image of a man face-to-face with a shark went viral. The image showed a diver apparently taming a shark by grabbing its nose. The photograph was uploaded onto Facebook by Perth and WA Fishing Reports and of course, some people were immediately fooled. Some comments made by those who thought the photograph to be genuine included “Give it a Rex Hunt kiss while ya there cobba” and “When done wrong results in being eaten alive.”

However, others were far more skeptical. They understood immediately that the photo was fake – “Absolutely 100% not real. Why is there no disturbed water around the shark? Why did the shark approach him front on and above the water, instead of from behind coming upwards from a greater depth? Either a dead shark or it's being towed by a boat.”

And indeed, it turned out that the photo was of a dead shark who was being untangled from a line growing abalone.

6 Real: Two Fishermen Catch Sharks

In 2016, photos of two fishermen from Esperance – Josh Butterworth and Jethro Bonnichta – went viral. Why the sudden fame, you might ask? Well, they caught two huge sharks off the coast of Australia, one of them a hammerhead and the other a tiger shark.

It is generally thought that the two fishermen caught over 30 sharks on their 10 day fishing trip. The photos of them posing with the hammerhead and the tiger shark were posted on Facebook by the US fishing company, Rogue Offshore.

As you can imagine, some social media users were upset by shark fishing for recreational purposes but the two fishermen claimed that they let the sharks go – “We could have killed them and claimed records but we let them go because they were still healthy.”

5 Fake: Escaped Sharks


In 2012, a photo went viral of sharks swimming around at the bottom of escalators. The photo’s caption explained that a shark tank at The Scientific Center in Kuwait had collapsed which has resulted in the sharks breaking free.

However, as you have probably guessed, the photo is actually fake. In fact, the image was not snapped at Kuwait’s Scientific Center but rather at Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza Complex’s basement retail concourse. The concourse with the nearby Union subway station was temporarily shut down on June 1st 2012 due to flooding.

Obviously, no sharks were present at the basement retail concourse that day. The image was photoshopped and circulated after Toronto flooding.

4 Real: The Man Who Saved A Shark’s Life

In 2009, a video of a man named Shane Cox saving a white shark was uploaded onto YouTube, and it wasn't until three years later in 2012 that the video and snaps went viral. Apparently, in 2009 Cox was fishing for gummy sharks in Australia when he accidentally caught a great white shark instead.

Since Cox did not want to eat a white shark he cut it free but shortly after noticed that the shark had washed up on the sand. Cox went over to the shark and noticed that the shark still had a hook in his mouth. Risking his own life Cox removed the hook and dragged the shark back into the sea. Cox later said – “I guess adrenalin and no brains I grabbed it and put it back in the ocean.”

3 Fake: Sharks’ Territory


In March of this year, Texan filmmaker and surfer Evan Adamson posted a terrifying picture on his Facebook page that has since gone viral. The picture is of him surfing waves. However, there is something else in the photograph – yes, you guessed it, that something else is a shark.

Adamson captioned the Facebook photo as “Captured from my drone.” As you can imagine, people went mad – the post got over 8,000 shares and 2,000 likes. Comments included – “That’s a fantastic photograph. You should submit it to Surfer or even NatGeo. Great composition” and “Wow! I will never ever surf. Love and respect sharks and that’s their territory.”

However, as the image went viral Adamson was forced to admit it was a fake. On his Instagram page he captioned the photograph as “What would you do? #photoshop #peoplewillstillthinkitsreal”

2 Real: Fisherman Inside A Shark

In 2013, a fisherman climbed inside a dead and gutted shark and with his arm sticking out of the shark’s gills posed for a strange photograph. The photo was taken on a trawler off the coast of Australia. It was later put up on the wall of the Metung Hotel and shortly after became an internet sensation.

The manager of the Metung Hotel, David Strange, commented on the photo saying – “People’s reaction to the photo is fantastically varied and taken in great humor. They are amazed and can’t believe what they see. It is a great photo. The shark was caught by a professional shark fisherman and dealt with as part of their normal commercial catch, except for a funny photo.”

1 Fake: Shark Selfie


In 2015, the surfer Alex Hayes shared a “shark selfie” on his Instagram page which he captioned as – “So... I went for a paddle out front, decided to stop have a rest and then saw this bad boy, at first I freaked and then I saw that he was a chiller and just cruising, luckily I brought my #gopro otherwise no one would’ve believed me... Changes my perspective about sharks they aren’t all dangerous!”

The image got over 6,000 likes. However, people soon began pointing out the similarities between the “shark selfie” and an image of a shark on a South African website. Before long, the teenage surfer confessed that the selfie was a fake – “Ya got me, no harm done. My good mate Alex Gray and I, we had a little play around with this photo of a shark and thought it was a bit obvious and uploaded it for a good laugh... “


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