An Australian surfer was bitten in half yesterday morning at 9am local time in an attack by a great white shark. Later named as 24-year-old Ben Linden from the city of Perth in Western Australia, he had been surfing with a friend close to Wedge Island, about a hundred miles north of the state capital.
A man jet skiing nearby described the gruesome scene, the sea red with blood and half a torso floating on the surface, all that remained of the victim. “There was just blood everywhere”, he told reporters from ABC Television, “with a massive, massive great white circling the body.
The shark, estimated at some sixteen feet long, attacked the skier as he tried to recover what was left of Mister Linden. “I reached the body and the shark came at me on the jet ski and tried to knock me off. When I came back the second time, he took the rest of him. I just thought about his family and if he had kids. I just wanted to get him to shore. I gave it everything I had."
Subsequently an air, sea and coast search was mounted for the remains but so far nothing has been discovered. All local beaches have now been closed and a hunt mounted for the killer by fishery patrols.
“There have been no sightings of the shark at this point in time and no remains have been found of the victim,” a Department of Fisheries spokesman said. “The weather has deteriorated a bit up there, the swell is up quite a bit from yesterday, it makes the water conditions a bit difficult, plus the cloud cover makes sighting a shark very difficult as well.”
This is the fifth such attack in the area since last September, an unusually high number, which has prompted calls for a cull. According to local marine biologists Australia’s West Coast is now one of the deadliest attack zones in the world.
I understand that the shark itself has been named ‘Brutus’ by local surfers, though it’s not clear to me if they were already familiar with the fish. According to local reports a great white had been seen in the area for four days prior to the attack.
Mr Linden was a musician and a cabinet maker. Alana Noakes, his girlfriend, said yesterday that she had been devastated by the tragedy. Her tribute is recorded on her Facebook page - “Ben was the most amazing man, he lit up the lives of all who knew him. He was the most talented, good-natured, beautiful person I've ever met. He was the love of my life, my best friend, my rock and my soul mate.”
Although the beach where the attack took place is officially closed that has not stopped people going in to the water. “There was a lone surfer out there this morning…people that love the water and love waves, that’s what they live for, they weigh up the risks,” Tony Cappelluti of the Fisheries Department said.
Comment is superfluous in the face of such tragedy, though I think it only right to say that there are some risks simply not worth taking, or if people are prepared to take them the sharks themselves should not suffer the consequences of their foolhardiness. Jaws-style hysteria seems wholly out of place.