Shark Attack!

I have received quite a few emails about shark attacks on humans, and many people want to hear first-hand accounts of shark attacks. A correspondent mentioned to me that a friend of his had been attacked by a white shark, and gave me his email address. I queried to the "attackee", Marco Flagg, and I received back this interesting report.


Incident Report

A Report Of The Shark Attack On Marco Flagg


Filed By Marco Flagg

Date of Report: July 2, 1995. 13:20 PDT

Abstract: The following report is an account of a shark attack on myself. This report details the sequence of events, as observed by myself, to the best of my knowledge and experience. I am attempting to keep this report as factual as possible. The times, measurements and other estimates are specified to the best of my recollection at this time, about 44 hours after the attack. As I attempt to not understate, overstate or otherwise misstate any such estimates, the reviewer should expect a roughly equal probability of error in either direction of the statement.

Basic Facts

Location of incident: Outside of Bluefish Cove, Pt. Lobos State Park, Monterey, California. The boat (12.5' Zodiac) was anchored in approx. 90 feet of water. The attack occurred approx. 200 feet from the boat in approx. 40 feet of water (in mid water). The underwater location is characterized by underwater rocky outcroppings, interspersed by sandy channels. Kelp is growing in the area, but there was no kelp at the site of the attack itself.

Time of Incident: Approx. 17:30 PDT, June 30, 1995

Weather: Flat calm, no/minimal wind, no swell, reduced ambient surface light due to low clouds and relatively late time in the day.

About myself: I am a 31 year old diver, certified in 1988. I hold both a PADI Advanced Open Water and a NOAA working diver certification. I have logged approximately 300 dives in a variety of locations throughout California as well as the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Arctic Ocean (Greenland) and the South Atlantic (Cape Horn). By profession I am an electronics engineer. I am self employed and am the proprietor of Desert Star Systems, a small company that produces oceanographic equipment for scientific, military and commercial users, as well as sport divers. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen, born in Germany.

Chronological Incident Report

I had been invited to some social/pleasure diving at Pt. Lobos by two friends, Steve and Marcie (last name withheld per request). We intended to make use of the good diving conditions that had lately been reported. After some engine trouble with the Zodiac inflatable early in the day, we finally started our first dive at approx. 14:55 PDT. The dive lasted about 40 minutes, my max. depth was 98 feet. The visibility was about 10 feet at the surface and improving to about 30 feet at the bottom. After the first dive, we left our dive site marker buoy in place and headed for shore for a late lunch and a surface interval.

At approx. 17:20 PDT (I did not check the watch), we started the second dive of the day. I was trying out Steve's diver propulsion vehicle (scooter) and, propelled by the scooter, was proceeding through the water at an approx. 20 degree descent angle. After maybe two minutes and at a depth of about 50 feet (according to depth gauge on the scooter), I looked to my right and saw the massive pectoral fin attached to the end of a torpedo shaped body of a large fish. The fish was at a distance of maybe 20 feet, at the edge of the visibility. The sighting lasted for two to three seconds before the animal disappeared from view in the cloudy water. The approx. 5 foot section I saw did not include the dorsal fin or any part forward of the animal. Somewhat stunned, I quickly thought that the animal matched the shape and size of a white shark (I had never seen a white shark before myself, but had seen plenty of footage recorded by other divers). Also thinking that the animal was most likely just passing and would not attack me, I decided it to be prudent to return to the boat to warn Steve and Marcie. I turned the scooter around and proceeded in the direction of the boat. I used the scooter to propel myself at a slight upward angle, attempting to be careful to not surface too fast and provoke an air embolism. I also did not want to surface far from the boat, recalling that many attacks occur at the surface. I was in an alert, apprehensive state but still calm enough to think "gee, and I got to see it without paying for a shark diving trip" (I naturally have a somewhat strange sense of humor and looking at things). Maybe 15 to 20 seconds after the first sighting (I had already turned the scooter around), I looked to my left and below and saw the massive, wide open, near circular, teeth lined mouth of an animal coming at me. The mouth appeared to have a diameter of certainly more than two feet but most likely not more than three feet. I thought 'Oh, Shit' and shortly (one second) there after felt a severe but dull pressure on my body. I do not recall being shaken by the animal nor taking any significant evasive or defensive action. Instead, I appeared to be free from its hold after maybe two seconds (hard to recall). As soon as I realized I was free I thought 'it did not bite very hard'. I tried to feel if my legs where still there, and they appeared to be. I decided to proceed along the set course at the maximum speed of the scooter, again attempting to surface close to the boat, to not surface too rapidly, and to not trash around thinking that that might cause the animal to bite again.

Surfacing about 20 yards from the boat, I proceeded the rest of the way on the surface. I reached the boat and decided to drop the scooter rather than attempting to lug it into the boat. I attempted to climb into the Zodiac with full dive gear (which I can usually do) about two or three times, without succeeding. I then jettisoned the weight belt and removed my tank/BCD/regulator assembly. I climbed into the boat and, attempting to pull my gear in, I fell back into the water. As fast as I could, I climbed back in and started to 'rev' the engine in neutral in short bursts so as to warn Steve and Marcie. I had a dull pain in my gut, but thought that there was probably no big loss of blood as I was still conscious. Steve surfaced after 3-5 minutes about 20 to 30 feet from the boat, and I told him I had been attacked. He handed me his video camera (which later fell back into the water due to an attached weight belt) and climbed into the boat. We kept using the engine-rev technique to signal to Marcie, who surfaced several more minutes later.

We left the marker buoy in place and proceeded to shore. I climbed out of the boat on my own, but then sat down because I felt weak. The ambulance arrived within a few minutes, the Paramedics removed my wet suit, placed me in the ambulance and transported me to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula for treatment by Dr. Blynn Shideler.

I sustained a cut wound of about 1.75" diameter on my left forearm (six stitches), with another 1" scrape mark. Another eight stitches were required for a cut wound on my left, upper leg. The third cut wound is on my left lower abdomen (two stitches). A bruise is in the vicinity of that wound. The distance from the leg wound to the arm wound is 20 inch if my arm is down and 30 inch if my arm is extended at a 45 degree angle up (while standing). I do not specifically recall what position my arm was in when the animal bit. The fact that I was using the scooter at the time suggests that it should have been 'up'.

I was treated with oxygen and intravenous fed antibiotics. I developed a slight fever (around 100F, I recall), which mostly had subsided by the next morning. Now, 44 hours after the attack, I am in good health, back at the office filing this report. There is a burning sensation still involved with the cut wound and a dull pressure in the abdomen area close to the cut wound and bruise. There appear to be no mental changes (no depression, fear, shaking, euphoria, etc.)

At the time of the attack, I was wearing a 1/4" Fathom wet suit (black/blue) consisting of a 'farmer-john' part and a jacket. I was wearing 22 pounds of weight on a yellow/orange weight belt. A DiveTracker DTX (a product of our company) served as my instrumentation console. The DiveTracker is housed in an 8" x 3.5" x 2.5" aluminum box with 1/4" aluminum wall strength. There are clean cut wounds in both parts of the wet suit at the locations of the cut wounds to my body. Most of the cuts in the wet suit are triangular in shape, a few are straight cuts. The major cuts in the wet suit range from 0.75" to 1.1" in length. In the vicinity of the cut in the arm, there are three smaller triangular cuts which only partially penetrate the material. There are two gashes in the plastic label on the face of the DiveTracker instrument (which was attached to the high pressure hose) and there are what appear to be teeth marks on the back of the steel tank as well.

The following personal statements are hypothesis and not facts and are not to be taken as such:

My injuries in this incident are very light, considering the circumstances. One reason for this may be that the shark, for whatever reason, simply decided to not exert much force on my body. Another possibility is that I in fact got sandwiched between two layers of metal. The shark may have bit onto the tank on my back and the DiveTracker instrument on my front. The DiveTracker instrument may have well rested on my abdomen (its natural position). Thus, the pressure on the tank and on the DiveTracker spread the force of the bite over a large area and resulting in the bruise on my abdomen. In this case, the cut wounds to my body may have simply been points were my body was 'bulging out' from in between the instrument and the tank. In effect, I would have been protected by armor.

From a single incident it is impossible to tell what factors were involved in the shark choosing to attack me. My simple suspicion is that it was hungry and that I happened to run across its path. One might argue forever that it was this or that piece of gear or behavior on my part that provoked the attack. Again, a single incident of a shark attack cannot possibly be used to come to any valid conclusion as to the 'why' of the attack. This incident must be seen in the context of a large number of incidents. Unfortunately, attacks by sharks on humans along the California coast are so rare that a big database of incidents from which to draw conclusions does simply not exist.

For my part, I will not be deterred from diving in these waters. Statistics show the probability of an attack on myself or anybody else to be extremely remote.

END OF REPORT