South African Online news site Cape Argus Times reports a spine-chilling close call in the waters off Miller’s Point Saturday.
Diver’s spear repels great white attack
October 2, 2006
By Natasha Prince
A professional diver from Strandfontein has told how he speared a shark in its nose as it swam towards him with its jaws wide open along the False Bay coast at the weekend.
Joseph Johnston, 36, said he and a group of divers had been spearfishing around Miller’s Point – between Rumbly Bay and Castle Rock – on Saturday afternoon when a shark approached him.
Johnston, a fire department training officer and a rescue diver, said the group had been about 300m from the shore and about to move to another reef.
“We often see sharks and they never bother us, but this one was heading straight for me,” he said.
When the shark was about two metres away from Johnston it had opened its jaws.
Johnston said he had instinctively grabbed his speargun, aimed and fired.
“I hit it in the nose and it turned and headed towards Louis.”
Louis Simpson of Ottery was a about 2m away. “It moved underneath me – it was definitely a great white, it could’ve been at least four metres,” Simpson said.
The shark moved vigorously in the water, causing the top of the 7mm-diameter spear to break off. It swam away with the point stuck in its nose.
Simpson said the shark’s ap-pearance had been unexpected because the group had used camouflage suits, so that they could not be mistaken for seals and had boogie boards, so there was no fish blood in the water.
“We got everyone out of the water and called the shark spotters to notify them about the injured animal,” Johnston said.
Yvonne Kamp, co-ordinator of the shark-spotting programme, said Johnston and his group had been lucky.
Spear fishermen often spotted sharks because they ventured deep into the water.
“We are hoping that, particularly at this time, people are going to report sharks spotted from the shore and in the water,” she said
A shark was spotted in Fish Hoek bay yesterday.
Johnston said he had been lucky that visibility was good, so that he was able to spot the shark from quite a distance.
The encounter has not put Johnston off his hobby. He was back in the water yesterday.
Last week, a huge great white shark, measuring about 4.5 metres was spotted off Fish Hoek beach. Great white sharks appear to be following their spring migration inshore into False Bay, according to experts.
White sharks are ambush predators, they sneak up on prey and then rush them from a distance. Mr. Johnston was very very lucky he managed to spot the fish before it grabbed him. What is more disturbing in this case is the fact that it appears to be a genuine act of predation, this shark was looking to EAT Mr. Johnston. As noted in the story, the group was wearing camouflage suits to avoid being mistaken for seals and there was no blood in the water. Ondinarily these precutions are enough to prevent accidental attack. Yet the attack occured. We have heard ad nauseam that Whites don’t eat people, human beings are not their natural prey – hence the traditional “bite and spit” pattern of attacks.
That pattern has changed in South Africa and Australia over the past few years. People are getting torn to pieces and swallowed. That’s new. There is a very upopular theory that accounts for this change: it’s called “Prey Switching”. Whites could be figuring out that people, while not as yummy as seals or fish, nevertheless can be eaten.
South Africa is probably the Great White sharkiest country in the world right now, surpassing California in attacks. At this time of the year Whites migrate out of deeper waters into coastal areas, making swimming, diving and surfing particularly hazardous. White Sharks are a protected species in S.A., The Beast has to wonder if Mr. Johnston would have faced prosecution if he had inadvertently killed that fish.
UPDATE: It’s happened before. In 1999, this California spearfisherman was rushed by this gigantic Mako. He made a lucky snap-shot and hit the fish on the gills, tearing them open and killing it before it could bite him. The spear lodged in the Mako’s spine, paralyzing it instantly.
He did it strictly in self-defense.
“This guy was big enough to take the leg or break me in half,” Graham said. “I’m extremely lucky. I played my only card.”