In 1975, the movie Jaws was released and great whites were never looked at the same again. With it’s ominous music leading up to attacks and the giant ‘prop’ great white fearlessly charging the scientist’s boat, the white shark was effectively embedded in the public conscious as a true menace that was casing a potential meal at any given time as swimmers gleefully swam about, blissfully unaware of the danger lurking underneath. Although the actual possibility of an attack occurring is extremely rare, there are those who have found out that the possibility of being attacked and killed is very real.
In California, a particular stretch of coastline has been dubbed ‘The Red Triangle’ because it has been the world’s leading site of great white attacks on humans since scientists began tracking shark attacks and the species most responsible for them fifty years ago. The ‘Red Triangle’ stretches about 100 miles from Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, to Ana Nuevo Island near Santa Cruz, with the corner marked by the infamous Farallon Islands. In the winter of 1981, Lewis Boren and friends were surfing just south of Monterey. Boren returned alone and disappeared. The next morning, his surfboard was found with a large piece missing in the telltale shape of a great white shark bite. The piece, along with Boren’s body, was later found about a half-mile from the attack site. Boren’s body had a similar bite mark, which showed that the shark killed Boren with a clean bite through him and his board.
On Friday, April 5th, 2008, Dave Martin, 66, joined his triathlon training group as they swam out past surfers on Solona Beach, California about 150 yards out. A large shark, thought to be a great white, struck him from below and lifted him out of the water, his legs in the shark’s mouth. He screamed ‘shark’ before going underwater. Martin was eventually rescued by two swimmers who were ahead of him. After hearing his cry, they swam back and dragged him to shore, where he was pronounced dead. Bite mark patterns on his legs indicated that the shark was a 12-17 foot great white that had probably mistaken Martin for a seal.
The last fatal shark attack along the California coast happened on August 15th, 2004, in Mendocino County. Victim Randall Fry was diving for abalone with a friend when his body was found with a bite mark spanning one shoulder to the other. An autopsy showed the bite measured 18 inches across, essentially separating the victim’s head from his torso. Lt. Donald Miller commented that in 30 years in the department, he had never seen anything like it.
On August 19th, 2003, a woman swimmer was killed by a great white at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo on the Central California coast. The last fatal shark attack along San Diego County was in April 1994.
Australia has also had it’s share of fatal great white shark attacks. On Sunday, March 25th, 2005 Geoffrey Brazier, 26, was snorkeling with two tourists off the Abrolhos Islands, about 250 miles north of Perth, the Western Australia state capital, when he was attacked and bitten in half by what was believed to be a 20-foot white shark. His remains or the shark were never found. The fatality was the first in Australian waters since December 16th, 2004, when an 18-year old surfer was bitten in half and eaten by two great whites off a beach in the southern city of Adelaide. A week earlier, a shark killed a 38-year-old diver that was spear fishing on the Great Barrier Reef off northeast Australia.