A British diver has been rescued after being stranded in shark-infested open ocean off Australia for nearly 18 hours.
Les Brierley, 68, was winched to safety by Queensland Government Air rescuers after a terrifying ordeal, which saw him swept away after going diving alone on Sunday.
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Mr Brierley had visited the wreck of the SS Yongala, about 12 miles off Queensland near Townsville. As soon as he entered the water he became swept away by the current. He became seriously worried when he realised that he had not replaced his personal locator beacon after taking it from his scuba tank to clean it.
According to The Times, Mr Brierley, originally from Bury but now living on the Sunshine Coast, said from his hospital bed: "I'd taken it out after the last deep dive to make sure the case was dry. That was a tragedy because if that had gone off, the helicopter would have gone straight to me."
He said that instead he suffered a "nightmare scenario" after he could see a rescue helicopter overhead, but they did not see him.
According to Sky News, Mr Brierley said: "I was feeling exhausted and when I thought the choppers had missed me, I didn't think I was going to make it to the shore."
He said he was being swept south and planned to swim for Cape Upstart, adding: "I didn't relish that because I know there are a lot of sharks in Cape Upstart Bay because I've seen them.
"My biggest fear really was the sharks ... and especially first thing in the morning after I'd swum all night, you know, the birds feed when the sharks and the mackerel are all around and there was a couple of flocks of birds really close to me, I thought 'oh, this isn't good'.
"I was debating in my mind which would be the preferable way to go...drown or getting eaten by a shark."
"A couple of the birds were flying overhead sizing me up as a possible meal and I just yelled to one of them 'go and get some help'."
Rescuers saw Les as they were about to leave the area to refuel.
Alan Griffiths was lowered down from the helicopter to rescue him, and said he was "very, very lucky". He was spotted around 31 miles from the dive site.
Mr Griffith told Sky News: "I said to him 'G'day mate, do you want a lift?' and he was a bit shaky and jittery."
According to the Daily Mail, he added: "He put his hand out so I could shake it – [that] says a little bit about him, and the type of gentleman he is.
"He'd gone by himself, which is a bit naughty, he jumped in the water from his boat and then realised the current was so strong and he simply couldn't get back."
Les was take to hospital with mild hypothermia and says that finally being rescued was a "magic feeling".