A couple of surfers experienced a terror episode while on vacation in Australia in August 2020 when they were attacked by a great white shark. More than a year after that traumatic experience, and while they suffer the consequences of what they lived, Chantelle doyle and Mark Rapley they remembered that episode.
Surfing is one of the activities most enjoyed by these Australians who had taken advantage of their days off to enjoy the beaches of Port Macquarie, in the state of New South Wales. It was a sunny morning, around 9:30 when they were both in the sea aboard their boards drilling some waves when the animal came out of nowhere and attacked Doyle .
“It hit under my board, it bit my leg right away, it just hit and held onto it“Said the 35-year-old woman on the 60 Minutes program on her country’s television. This happened while her husband was 10 meters away and, seeing the situation, he immediately swam to try to help his wife.
“I left the board, to start hitting the shark … It was just, just throwing as hard as I could until it released, because somehow, you just want it to go away. He was looking death in the eye. That memory stayed with me ”.
Rapley kicked him as many kicks as he could and most of them aimed at the shark’s nose, which had clung to his partner’s right leg: “It was the part that was out of the water, so I started punching him,” he explained and He added: “That is his most sensitive area.” Despite his efforts, the situation was not easy: “The shark grabbed my leg and although it was not very painful, I did feel a lot of pressure“Said Doyle.
While it is true that these animals are more sensitive in that area, Rapley assured that “It was like hitting a brick wall”. Finally, his effort paid off and in a moment he achieved his goal.
Immediately, the couple reached the sand where they made a tourniquet to the injured woman to prevent the bleeding from continuing. It is that the bite had affected the muscle, knee, tendons, bones, cartilage and nerves of the right leg, but when he arrived at the Port Macquaire hospital the specialists noticed that his arteries were intact. From there she was taken to another center in Newcastle where she underwent surgery. “Most parts of my leg were injured, except for the arteries. If my artery had been hit … I won’t have this conversation“Doyle commented excitedly.
More than a year after the white shark attack, the 35-year-old Australian is still suffering the consequences: “I can’t move or feel my right leg and they have told me that I have to wait more than a year for my nerves to grow to know what happens ”.
In October this year, a study published in Interface, a magazine of the Royal Society, found a possible cause for these attacks. It is related to an “identification error” since sharks have such poor eyesight that -as they concluded- they mistake surfers for their usual prey, such as seals or sea lions.
“From the point of view of a great white shark, neither movement nor shape allows an unequivocal visual distinction between pinnipeds and humans”wrote the authors of the published article.
The white, tiger and sardinian sharks are the ones that most attack surfers. If the white shark is known to detect sounds and smells at a great distance, it is assumed that up close it relies mostly on its sight to identify and attack its prey. The problem is that your visual system is almost color insensitive and you have a very poor ability to distinguish details in a way. Its resolution, up to six times lower than that of a human being, is even worse in young white sharks, which represent the greatest risk of bites for surfers, according to the study.
Now the researchers will try to determine if a “change in the visual cues of potential prey would be an effective protection technique against white sharks”explained lead author Laura Ryan. The solutions have to “not only prevent shark bites” but also “not endanger other marine species.”