'We survived shark attacks': Incredible stories of bravery

Credits: Getty Images

Experts claim a great white shark is circling waters off Hampshire (file picture) (Photo: Getty Images)

Last week, Brit tourists in Majorca came face-to-face with an 8ft blue shark just as an expert claims a deadly great white shark is circling UK waters.

Terrified sunseekers on the Spanish island ran from the sea on Illetas beach when the beast appeared before it was captured and killed.

SEE ALSO: Huge shark spotted in Cornwall

SEE ALSO: Shark attack in Devon: Surfer bitten on leg

Panic hit our own shores when fishing expert Graeme Pullen claimed a great white – as seen in 1975 film Jaws – has visited Hayling Island, Hants, for two years running.

With its seven rows of razor-sharp teeth and the ability to grow to 14ft, an encounter with a great white would be potentially deadly.

Credits: Getty Images

Actors Richard Dreyfuss (L) and Robert Shaw lean off the back of their boat, holding ropes as they watch the giant Great White shark emerge from the water in a still from the film 'Jaws' (file picture) (Photo: Getty Images)

Mr Pullen warns there have been "multiple sightings" and fears the shark will "stumble across someone in a wetsuit and mistake them for a seal."

Thankfully, it hasn't happened yet – but as attacks rise worldwide, should we fear they are closing in on us from the deep?

Coming face to face with a shark is a scenario most – fortunately –can only imagine. But for a few, it is not just the stuff of movies or nightmares, it's is a reality.

Last year had the highest number of shark attacks on record, with 107 reported worldwide.

Factors including rising water temperatures, shark cage diving excursions at tourist spots – where the creatures are drawn in with blood-soaked lures – and even normal sea fishing have brought sharks ever closer to our shores.

Credits: Getty Images

People have shared their incredible stories of being faced with a shark (file picture) (Photo: Getty Images)

For anyone unlucky enough to face one in its natural habitat, the odds of coming out unharmed are stacked against them – although incredibly, some do escape injury.

Of the relatively few who have been attacked worldwide, as many as six out of every seven live to tell the tale.

Here, we look at the dramatic stories of just some of those who encountered a shark – and lived.

Frankie Gonsalves

In an act of incredibly bravery, devoted husband Dean Gonsalves saved his wife when she was attacked as their children swam nearby – by punching the fearsome predator on the nose.

Dean stepped in to rescue Frankie when a shark clamped down on her leg and foot on April 9 this year.

The British mum was said to have been snorkelling with her husband off Ascension Island, in the South Atlantic, when she was mauled.

Credits: Facebook

A British woman survived being attacked by a shark while snorkelling off the coast of Ascension Island. Her husband punched the shark on the nose after it clamped its jaws around her leg(Photo: Facebook)

The couple's children – Louis, seven, and Katie, 10 – were playing in the water just metres away. It was only when Dean waded over and punched the shark that Frankie managed to break free.

According to a witness, the shark then lunged for Dean but, in a remarkable display of determination, the pair scrabbled to shore.

Hospital medics in capital Georgetown confirmed Frankie, originally from Letchworth Garden City, Herts, would not lose her leg.

But the mum, then working as a social worker in St Helena, had suffered deep punctures. She was airlifted to St Mary's Hospital in London for specialist trauma care a week later.

Hero Dean suffered only bruising from where he punched the creature. He reportedly said at the time: "Who'd have thought how hard a shark's nose is?" The species of shark involved is not known.

Frankie's father Irving Benjamin, from Deal, Kent, said of the attack: "Thank God it wasn't the kids. When
Dean called he made every effort to reassure us Frankie was alive and OK.

"But your first thought when you hear 'shark attack' is, 'Oh my God, I'm about to lose my daughter'."

Tyler McQuillen

College student Tyler McQuillen was attacked by a great white – and captured the ordeal on camera.

The footage, filmed on a GoPro and uploaded to YouTube, shows Tyler, 22, fending off the predator by jabbing it with a spear gun.

Tyler, from the US, was spearfishing with friends at Refugio Point, off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, when he felt a tug on his fins in September last year.

Credits: ABC

Tyler McQuillen caught his ordeal on camera (Photo: ABC)

At first he did nothing, believing his pals were playing a joke on him by pulling at his feet.

But when the fin was ripped clean off and two of his toes were bitten, Tyler realised it was no prank – he was under attack from a shark.

Captured with the camera attached to the speargun, the four-minute video shows how Tyler briefly lost his grip of his weapon but managed to grab it before the shark is seen in full view.

In a desperate bid to defend himself, Tyler jabbed at the creature, thought to be just under 13ft long, before ­escaping back to shore.

Credits: ABC

A 22-year-old spear-fisherman fought off a Great White Shark as it came to attack him (Photo: ABC)

Luckily for him, the shark did not give chase. Tyler's only injuries were two broken toes and a laceration to his right foot.

Emerging from the water after the ordeal, Tyler shouted to his pals: "I got that on video, wooo, f ** gnarly."

The footage – which went viral – serves as a harrowing souvenir of his brush with one of nature's deadliest predators.

Brett Archibold

In a remarkable tale of human resilience, Brett Archibold survived 28 hours alone in shark-infested waters after falling overboard in the early hours on a group boat trip.

The married dad-of-two was suffering food poisoning when he passed out and fell from the top deck during a holiday to Indonesia with nine friends.

When Brett, then 50, came to in the dark and rain, he was in the sea 15 metres from the boat – too far to catch up.

But Brett, a strong swimmer and surfer, was determined to survive. He was attacked by seagulls and endured "crazy" hallucinations as exhaustion and dehydration took hold.

Then after around 15 hours alone in the water Brett, from Cape Town, South Africa, felt a nudge against his left kidney.

He said: "I thought it was a barracuda initially, this big fish. Then the thing nudged me again and actually turned me in the water and I thought, 'Oh it's a shark, I know it's a shark'.

Brett Archibald survived 28 hours in shark-infested waters

"It's weird the human mind. My first thought was, 'Oh he's going to eat me'. I remember lifting my chin and saying, 'Buddy, just rip my throat out'."

But when he saw the black edges of the shark's fin, Brett identified it as a blacktip reef shark – which he knew did not pose a threat to humans.

The realisation, he said, gave him renewed hope and in his delusional state he believed the shark could even rescue him by "towing me to a reef".

So much so that, when the blacktip swam away, Brett felt "devastated".

It was a further 13 hours before, at 6.30am on April 18 2013, Brett was found by a search party. He had fallen into the water 28 hours earlier, 20km from where he was found.

Shaking and in pain – his eyes swollen and his feet, lips and hands nearly bloodless – Brett was taken for a medical assessment.

He had lost nearly 13lb in body weight and was badly ­sunburned – but suffered no lasting damage.

Brett wrote a book about his experience, called Alone.

Mark Quartiano

Mark "The Shark" Quartiano reckons he's caught 100,000 sharks in a fishing career spanning four decades.

Dubbed a "killing machine", the former policeman and fireman counts a 15ft tiger shark and a 20ft great white among his top catches.

Credits: Zuma Press / eyevine

Captain ''Mark The Shark'' Quartiano, of Pompano Beach, speaks with another boat while searching for his favorite fishing spot along the curve of the Gulf Stream, two miles off the coast of Miami, Florida (Photo: Zuma Press / eyevine)

He became a professional angler in 1976 – the year after blockbuster shark film Jaws was released.

On last count in 2011, he bragged of 100,000 kills – including the unborn offspring of pregnant sharks he slayed.

Quartiano uses state of the art equipment to reel in the largest of the world's sea life on his 50ft boat.

But his activity has divided public opinion. His site comes with a "Politically Incorrect" warning – and cautions that "some photos may not be suitable for very small children, the faint-hearted or PETA members".

Credits: Zuma Press / eyevine

Captain ''Mark The Shark'' Quartiano, of Pompano Beach, displays a shark jaw in his office (Photo: Zuma Press / eyevine)

Credits: Splash News

Charter boat Captain Mark Quartiano - known as Mark The Shark - caught this 800lb deep sea beast and described it as being "like a dinosaur" (Photo: Splash News)

But that hasn't stopped him acquiring 77,000 followers on Instagram and 236,000 visitors to his website last year.

He clocks up hundreds of daily likes on his footage, alongside hashtags such as #theworldsmostexcitingcharterboat and #SHARKHUNTER.

Quartiano claims to kill just a fraction of the fish he catches but his photos of bloodied trophies have made him an enemy of animal rights organisations.

His Miami-based business charges around £750 a day for fishing trips. Hollywood stars Robert DeNiro and Will Smith are among his customers.

Quartiano even runs shark-fishing stag dos, where the groom-to-be is allowed to reel in the catch of choice.

Shrugging off suggestions he is doing lasting damage to the ocean, he insists the number he kills is negligible in comparison to the tally of the commercial fishing industry.

But he notes: "There's definitely less sharks in Miami now. I'm probably responsible for that."

World’s Worst Shark Attacks
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World’s Worst Shark Attacks
Back in 1959, Robert Pamperin was diving for sea snails in La Jolla Cove, California when he was attacked by a shark. His diving companion Gerald Lehrer painted a vivid picture of the events that day. According to reports, Gerald turned to see his friend rising unusually high in the water. He dove below the surface and saw his friend waist-deep inside the shark’s jaws. Despite his efforts to distract the shark, Robert was dragged to the sea bed in the jaws of the 22-foot shark.

Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton has proven that not even a shark attack can keep a girl down.

At the age of 13, while surfing off Kauai’s north shore in Hawaii, Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark and was left with a severed left arm.

After losing more than 60% of her blood, Hamilton required several surgeries, but she did not let the incident impact her dreams of surfing.

Miraculously, just one month after the attack, Hamilton returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer. Shortly thereafter, she made her return to surf competition; placing 5th in the Open Women’s division of that contest. With no intention of stopping, Bethany continued to enter and excel in competition.

Just over a year after the attack she took 1st place in the Explorer Women’s division of the 2005 NSSA National Championships – winning her first National Title.

In 2010 she was the 20th ranked woman among surfers and her autobiography Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back was made into a movie with Dennis Quaid and Carrie Underwood in 2011.
When HMS Birkenhead struck a rock just three miles from the coastline in South Africa, the disaster was only just beginning for its crew.

After the captain commanded that ‘women and children’ take the undamaged lifeboats, the rest of the 643-strong crew made up of British and Irish soldiers, were left on board to go down with their ship.

Tragically, once the vessel sank, the men were not given the opportunity to swim to safety. Sharks surrounded the floating men and embarked on a feeding frenzy.

According to one report, in a very short time many of those who survived the sinking were dead. And on the surface of the water, which was covered in blood, floated the almost unrecognisable remains of those who had been attacked by sharks.

Just 193 people survived the disaster.

Rodney Fox was just 24 years old when he was viciously attacked by a great white shark, while competing in a spearfishing competition off the south Australian coast. It later turned out that they only thing keeping Rodney’s internal organs from falling out of his body -- and him alive -- was his wet suit.

After a nightmarish shark attack that left his ribs broken, one lung ripped open, the main artery from his heart exposed, diaphragm punctured and right arm flayed to the bone, Fox needed 462 stitches to put him back together.

Reports say that Rodney went on to design and build the first underwater observation cage to dive with the great white shark, and for over 40 years has led major expeditions to film and study his attacker.

The coast of New Jersey was struck by a series of shark attacks back in 1916. During a heat wave that saw Americans flock to the beach, four people were the victim of shark attacks.

According to The Telegraph, the first victim was 25-year-old Charles Vansant, who bled to death after sharks stripped the flesh off his thigh as he went for an early-evening swim.

Less than a week later, a 27-year-man suffered severe injuries to his stomach, and severed legs, while swimming at a beach just 45 miles from the first attack.

Six days later, further north up the coast, 12-year-old Lester Stillwell was dragged underwater as he played in the sea with his friends.

Tragically, attempts by his father to save his son, resulted in his also being attacked and bleeding to death.

When British naval ship HMS Valerian capsized during a hurricane, near the coast of Bermuda, the surviving crew members were savaged by sharks in the water.

There were 88 fatalities, most of them from shark attacks, according to reports.

As the sailors hung on the life rafts for dear life, sharks pulled some of them off and into the water, where they were bitten and chewed in a shark feeding frenzy, reveals sharkfacts.com.


Rescue boats managed to pull just 20 survivors from the waters.

Perhaps the most hard-to-read shark attack story of recent years was that of Ian Redmond, 30, who was attacked and killed in the Seychelles while on his honeymoon.

In 2011, Redmond went snorkelling 20 yards from the shore, where his new wife was sunbathing, and was attacked by a six-foot shark.

An American tourist told the Daily Mail that someone saw a fin sticking out above the water. According to the tourist, a woman then ran over, screaming, "That’s my husband! We were just married."

Redmond wasn’t the first man to be attacked off Anse Lazio beach, Paslin island. Just two weeks before, a 36-year-old French tourist was killed by a shark off the same beach.

In 1945, when two Japanese torpedoes hit the USS Indianapolis in succession, a chain reaction of explosions ripped the ship in two and of the 1,196 individuals aboard, just 900 made it into the water alive. 

However, that moment was just the beginning of one of the worst shark attacks in history.

For four days the crew bobbed in the water while the sharks feed off their group, picking off the dead and injured first.

By the time a rescue crew arrived only 317 individuals remained alive.

According to Salon.com, estimates of the number who died from shark attacks range from a few dozen to almost 150.


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