While it may be rare, there is no denying that being attacked by a shark is still one of the most terrifying experiences that could happen in the ocean. There have been numerous unprovoked attacks over the years, yet the following harrowing stories definitely rank as the most horrifying ones ever recorded.
USS Indianapolis, 1945
Undoubtedly the attacks on the U.S. Naval Ship USS Indianapolis ranks as the worst shark attack in history. While at sea the ship was hit by two Japanese torpedoes, causing the ship to sink in 12 minutes. 900 men made it into the water alive, yet the explosion along with blood and movement attracted many sharks, who feasted on the survivors over the course four horrible days before rescue finally came. After the harrowing ordeal, only 317 men remained, with estimates of those who died from shark attacks ranging from a few dozens into the hundreds.
Robert Pamperin, 1959
A pleasant day snorkeling with friends off La Jolla Cove soon turned into a living nightmare when Gerald Lehrer heard his friend screaming for help. He turned to see Robert Pamperin upright and unusually high out of the water, then dove under the waves to see that a 22-foot Great White shark had Robert in his mouth up this his waist. The shark then dragged him underwater, and according to Lehrer it looked as if the shark was trying to swallow him whole. By the time rescuers arrived, all they could find Robert’s single swim fin.
Ian Redmond, 2011
The beginning of a beautiful Honeymoon in Seychellois quickly turned into a tragedy when Ian Redmond’s new wife Gemma heard “the most awful scream” as he cried out for help and said, “I can still hear it when I close my eyes”. Ian was snorkeling when a shark ripped off his arm and leg, and despite rescue efforts he quickly bled to death. Just days before Ian had laughed off Gemma’s concerns over sharks in the area, and they chose the area in part due to the promised safety of the waters.
Rodney Fox, 1963
Competing in a spearfishing contest off Aldinga Beach, a young Rodney Fox suddenly felt an immense force hit his side. “My chest was clamped, like in a vice. I was a bone in a dog’s mouth.” At the time it was the worse shark attack that a victim survived, as Rodney suffered shattered ribs, a collapsed lung and a ruptured spleen. He had to get 462 stitches and still had a shark tooth imbedded in his wrist. Rodney then wanted to conquer his fear by studying sharks, soon becoming an expert in filming the giant creatures and assisting in collecting the live footage used in the film “Jaws.”
The Jersey Shore Jaws, 1916
Long before “Gym, Tan and Laundry,” a rash of shark attacks took place along the Jersey Shore, leaving 4 dead (mostly children and young adults) and one injured over the course of 2 weeks. Before this few believed sharks would attack humans, yet this incident began the incessant fear of sharks, with President Woodrow Wilson giving federal aid to “drive away all the ferocious man-eating sharks which have been making prey of bathers.” This story serves as the basis for the film “Jaws.”
Heather Boswell, 1994
Heather Boswell’s first warning was when someone yelled, “Shark!” She was taking a swim with other people 300 miles east of Easter Island when a 14-foot shark started swimming towards her. “I started swimming (for the ship) as fast as I could. Then I felt something grab my leg and jerk me. I turned and saw his fin.” The shark pulled her underwater. “He was moving his head back and forth, shaking me really hard. I thought I was going to die.” Luckily she got away, but not before losing her leg in the process. You can watch the attack for yourself here.
Bethany Hamilton, 2003
Bethany Hamilton was only 13-years-old when she went out for a morning surf in Kauai. With her left arm dangling in the water, she was waiting for the surf to pick up when a 14-foot tiger shark came out of nowhere. “That’s all it took: a split second. I felt a lot of pressure and a couple of lightning fast tugs. Then I watched in shock as the water around me turned bright red. Somehow, I stayed calm. My left arm was gone almost to the armpit.” Bethany survived the attack and went on to become a professional surfer, inspiring the events in the film “Soul Surfer.”
Brook Watson, 1749
As a merchant sailor, a 14-year-old Brook Watson was swimming off the coast of Cuba when he was attacked, becoming the first ever recorded shark attack victim. The shark had already taken off his foot on two separate attacks and was coming back for the kill when his crew came to the rescue in just the nick of time. Watson grew up to have a successful life, and an awesome painting to immortalize his harrowing ordeal.
Sam Kellett, 2014
28-year-old Sam Kellett was virtually swallowed whole by a Great White shark while spearfishing off the coast of Adelaide. His friend Aaron Whitaker said he heard yelling to see the tail of a 16-foot shark trashing around in the water. Another friend, Wyatt Raymount, said he saw the shark in the spot he last saw Sam surrounded by a large pool of blood. The body was never found.
Peter Clarkson, 2011
Peter Clarkson was an experienced diver that was attacked by not one but two Great White sharks. The skipper of the boat witnessed the graphic ordeal and later was treated for his significant shock. The body was sadly never found, and it was later learned that this wasn’t Peter’s first time encountering a shark. Ten years prior he was approached by a 13-foot Great White while diving.
David Peltier, 2001
A little David Peltier was a mere 10-years-old when he was attacked by a shark in 4 feet of water while on a sandbar with his two brothers and father. His dad continued to beat the shark until it finally released David, and they rushed to get him help as he had a 17-inch gash and severed artery. Sadly, the blood lost was too severe and David later passed away at the hospital.
Shirley Ann Durdin, 1985
In this heartbreaking story, Shirley Ann Durdin, mother of four, was snorkeling in seven feet of water when a great white, estimated to be 20-feet long, tore Shirley in two. When rescuers arrived all that was left was a headless torso, yet the shark circled back and took that too. This is first time an Australian victim was know to be eaten by a shark.
Pacific Coast of the United States, 1984
Over the course of 15 days in 1984, four shark attacks occurred off the Pacific Coast of the U.S., with the attack of Omar Conger being the worse. While diving, his friend Chris Rehm said that a “huge White Shark came up, grabbed him [Conger] from behind, and while shaking him violently, pulled him under the water.” The shark finally released him, but the injuries Omar sustained proved fatal. The direction that the shark came at Omar suggested that it first swan under Chris before reaching Omar.
Barry Wilson, 1952
The horrific attack that occurred to a teenage boy swimming near Lover’s Point in California was all witnessed by John Bassford, who had a clear vantage point. John recounted that he saw Barry Wilson suddenly look in all directions with a look of terror on his face. Then a shark struck and lifted Barry out of the water, and while the boy tried to free himself, the shark soon dragged him under the water. He then surfaced in a large pool of blood screaming for help. Rescuers struggled for 20 minutes to get him out of the water, all the while the shark circled about the crew. Sadly Barry died of his injuries before they ever reached the shore.