For Whom The Dinner Bell Tolls – Spearfisherman Shoots Attacking Great White Shark

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.”



  1. dragonlady474
    Posted October 3, 2006 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    I will never get in the ocean again. ughhh

  2. Posted October 3, 2006 at 2:53 am | Permalink


    It all depends on what part of what ocean you’re in and what you’re doing in it. Ordinarily you are at no risk whatsoever.

    Cool pic, though, huh? That’s one WHOPPER of a Mako!

  3. Posted October 3, 2006 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    That is the biggest $#&*ing shark I’ve ever seen! Holy Crap!!!!

  4. Posted October 3, 2006 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    with all those ‘whites’ in your post, i wonder whether you wanted to make some social integration point…

  5. Posted October 3, 2006 at 3:22 pm | Permalink


    In 1758, Swedish zoologist Carolus Linnaeus named the Great White Shark “Carcharodon Carcharias” (the ‘Jagged-Toothed One’). The Beast could have this used this taxonomic designation instead of the common name, but frankly it’s a mouthful. However if he has ruffled any feathers he will resort to it next time someone gets attacked.

  6. catherine love
    Posted January 16, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Permalink


  7. Posted January 16, 2007 at 5:25 pm | Permalink


    Most sharks are not worth the trouble to fish for, they either taste horrible or don’t fight on hook and line worth a damn. That said, a few are worthwhile:

    The Mako is a leaper. Writer Zane Grey once reported a Mako leaping right over his boat. They are considered sport fish.

    Thresher sharks give a hard fight, most likely because of the huge tail fin. They are also considered a sport fish.

    Lemon sharks are popular in the Gulf of Mississippi because are considered extremely tasty. They are considered a food fish.

    That’s about it.

    As to your question “why would anyone want to kill a shark or even catch one how dare u” Consider – why are fishermen able to catch sharks? Because the sharks bite the hook. Why do they bite the hook? Becuse there’s BAIT on it. What do you think the sharks are trying to do to that fish on the hook, capture and rehabiltate him? This is the Great Circle of Life in all its gory glory. How do you think the filet on your plate got there? Suicide?

    The Beast is an ardent fisherman, but he hates the taste of fish so he releases everything. This is a bonus because it means the sport can be enjoyed and nothing has to die in the end. The Beast is not against keeping and eating fish, he just doesn’t do it himself.

    In any event if you had actually READ this piece you would have noted that both encounters the shark was ATTACKING and shot strictly in self defense. Or do you think those divers should have allowed themselves to be eaten too? Let’s face it – people practise catch and release, sharks don’t.

  8. Allison
    Posted April 22, 2007 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I feel as though you’re trying to label sharks as “evil” which they are certainly not.
    They have a role to play in the economy.
    You don’t have to like sharks, but to denounce them as nothing more than maneaters is false.

    The ocean is the shark’s realm. We humans take a chance once we venture in.
    Do not blame the animal for it’s instincts.

  9. Posted April 22, 2007 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Allison, are you addressing the Beast? If so, your assumptions are wrong. Sharks are simply fish who do what fish do – swim, eat and make little sharks. They are no more evil than a goldfish in a tank, except that most are much bigger and some occasionally maim or kill unlucky people who venture into their domain.

    The Beast loves sharks, which is why he blogs on them. Please point to a specific example on this blog where The Beast denounces sharks as “nothing more than maneaters”.

  10. Posted September 5, 2007 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    holy cow that is a huge man eating shark that is a freaky lookin thing if i were near it and saw it get shot i would be happy that i didn’t get hurt and that is was dead

  11. Mary
    Posted September 16, 2007 at 1:19 am | Permalink


    Wake up and smell the ocean water! Sharks are dangerous predators and if one can avoid them or kill them if they are attacking someone, all the better. Do you think that they are going to say “hey, there’s Catherine. She likes us. So we won’t eat her. Just those around her” then girl, are you dumb! Perhaps if you were bitten by one of them, you would change your silly tune!

  12. hunter t
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    fuck you for killing that shark, i wish it had eaten you

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