Zealous Sharks

Zealous Sharks

Victims of a shark attack usually suffer injuries to the arms or legs, probably because flailing appendages attract the shark's attention. But not always. The following is a true account of a man who was almost decapitated by a shark and lived to tell about it.

A native of Thursday Island called Treacle was a professional pearl diver working in the waters of Torres Strait somewhere between New Guinea and Australia. One day during the year 1913 Treacle was diving toward a promising—looking oyster when he literally swam right into the wide—open mouth of a huge tiger shark.

The shark seemed to come from nowhere and with jaws swung apart promptly seized Treacle's neck and shoulders, his head completely inside its mouth. To the shark this was a predator's dream; rarely can a man—eater simply open its mouth and have an accommodating meal swim right in.

Treacle's fate was not, however, quite sealed. In desperation, acting on his instinct for self—preservation, he rammed his thumbs into both eyes of the shark. Badly hurt and temporarily blinded, the shark released its prey and swam away. Treacle floated to the surface with his head almost ripped from his body.

When he was found by rescuers, Treacle's shoulders and neck were badly shredded by the slashing teeth. His jugular vein itself had not been severed.

In the hospital Treacle's recovery was touch and go, but he did live, and from then on he exhibited his impressive scars to tourists who flocked to see, hear, and believe his story. Treacle's story became a ritual chant for him, and he made a much more prosperous living this way than he had ever made as a pearl diver.

Some Australian great white sharks are more determined than Treacle's tiger shark. They are not so willing to give up a prospective morsel. A thirteen—year—old boy surfing just off an Australian beach suddenly felt something seize his right leg. He kicked at the thing, which, he stated later, felt as though it was attached to his leg. The attachment was an eight—foot white shark. The boy kicked and punched and, finally, in desperation, leaned over and bit the shark on the nose. Still it would not let go.

Lifeguards arrived on the scene and clubbed at the shark with surfboards. The fish must have considered the boy's leg a rare delicacy, because it doggedly held on.

Finally the boy was carried onto the beach with the shark still attached to his leg. It was only after the shark had been clubbed to death that the lifeguards were able to pry its jaws loose. The boy survived his ordeal, fortunately with his leg intact. And just a Treacle gave up pearl diving, the boy gave up surfing.

About a month later on a nearby beach there occurred another unusual encounter with a very determined great white shark. A woman in water about four feet deep was horrified to see a large shark fin cut the water and swiftly bear down on her. After making it safely to the beach, the terrified woman continued running. The shark, excited by its prospective prey, followed her out of the water and onto the beach! There it thrashed around in an almost helpless state until it was finally killed by a lifeguard with a sledgehammer.

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth