WARNING: Some of the images, videos, and information about sharks and shark attacks may not be for the squeamish. Proceed with caution. By the end of this list of most horrifying shark attacks, you are going to BE Roy Scheider in Jaws. From the “Real New Jersey Jaws” to the tragic killing of a young man on his honeymoon, this list has all of the horrors of shark attacks imaginable.
Shark attacks are pretty simple when you think about it – they happen wherever there is water and delicious people (unless this is Sharknado and then shark attacks can happen in your living room). Can we just finish this level before you bite our torso in half, buddy? But most of the time, shark attacks are a result of mistaken identity; the shark is looking for a juicy sea lion or seal and you look like a yummy blubbery treat in that wetsuit.
Why should you go snorkeling wearing chain mail or think twice about being a sailor? Because shark attacks are on the rise with an average of 60 per year in the U.S. Even though the odds are 1 in 11 million that you’ll be attacked by a shark, that’s 60 shark attacks too many if you ask us. The most horrific shark attacks usually involve maritime disasters – war is hell but even worse on the high seas – but there’s also the rogue shark who likes to go to the beach as much as we do. And in real life, there’s no Quint to munch on or Richard Dreyfuss to help us fend off that stone-cold eating-machine.
Shark attacks occur in deep water as well as shallow water, with some people miraculously surviving. Many, however, meet a tragic and violent end. There’s no stopping a great white unless you are Rodney Fox and you gouge its eyes out. So take in this shark attack information with caution. And probably not while at the beach. Or alone next to the pool at night where we’re pretty sure shark attacks are impossible. But if you see Tara Reid. Run.
Bethany Hamilton, 2003
13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was surfing The Tunnels off Kauai with her friend Alana Blanchard when a shark decided to change her life. While Hamilton was lying on her board with her arm dangling in the water, the shark bit into her and her board. The bite took her arm off just below the shoulder. Blanchard helped Hamilton back to shore where Blanchard’s father made a tourniquet that saved her life.
A 14-foot-tiger shark, believed to be the shark that attacked Hamilton, was trapped by a local fisherman Ralph Young. The shark weighed nearly 1,400 pounds. He’s totally dead now. Hamilton went on to rank as one of the top 10 professional women surfers in the world.
USS Indianapolis, 1945
After an unescorted U.S. warship was torpedoed by the Japanese mid-way between the Leyte Gulf and Guam, the ship was split in two, sending 900 sailors into the Pacific. Sharks chewed through nearly 600 men in five days. Survivor Woody James later recounted, “The sharks were around, hundreds of them… Everything would be quiet and then you’d hear somebody scream and you knew a shark had got him.” The USS Indianapolis deaths are the worst sharks attack in history.
Robert Pamperin, 1959
Robert Pamperin and friend were snorkeling off La Jolla Cove in California when he was attacked by a 22-foot great white. Gerald Lehrer heard Pamperin scream when he turned to see him unusually high in the water with his mask missing. Lehrer dove under to see that the shark had Pamperin in his mouth up to his waist. The shark pulled Pamperin under and dragged him along the sea bed. By the time rescuers arrived, they only found Pamperin’s single swim fin.
The Cape San Juan Sinking, 1943
The SS Cape San Juan was torpedoed by the Japanese sub 1-21 on November 11 just off Fiji. The ship didn’t sink until the next day. Of the 1,464 crew on board, approximately 695 died due to shark attacks.
One survivor, Corporal Louis Ruffin, described the night spent in the water and how sharks were picking the men off one by one in the murky waters of the Pacific. When rescuers arrived the next day, they threw the dead back into the water. “When I was pulled up and on the boat, I did some moving and shaking! I didn’t want one of them big ole sharks to eat me up!” Thank you for serving sir, and for not being served to sharks.
Rodney Fox, 1963
Rodney Fox has the best cocktail story ever after his shark attack. While competitively spearfishing in Australia, he suffered a vicious shark attack where a great white grabbed him by the torso and then charged him two more times, pulling him under and dragging him across the ocean floor. The bites punctured his diaphragm, scapula and tore his lung… TORE HIS LUNG, GUYS!
Rescuers had to keep his wetsuit on to keep his organs from spilling out. The fact that Fox survived is a miracle. That and he gouged out its eyes. Fox was 13.
Fox became a leading authority on the great white and designed the first shark observation cage. He was inducted into the International Scuba Hall of Fame in 2007. Because he deserved it.
Sam Kellett, 2015
Sam Kellett, a 28-year-old school teacher, was devoured by a great white shark while spearfishing off the coast of Australia with his friends. Unfortunately, his buddies had to witness the attack, and saw the ocean turn red with his blood.
Kellett’s parents have graciously decided not to blame the shark for their son’s death, and have requested that it not be hunted or killed.
Shirley Ann Durdin, 1985
Australia is a lovely place. A lovely, deadly place, and a hot spot for shark attacks. That’s a bad rap considering that Australia has as many shark attacks as Florida.
But it’s the shark attack that killed Shirley Ann Durdin
that helped put Australia front and center in the shark attack stat box. Durdin was snorkeling in Peake Bay when she was viciously attacked in just seven feet of water. Her husband and children watched as the 20-foot great white tore her in two. The shark only left her torso behind, but before rescuers could reach the scene, it circled back and took that too.
David Peltier, 2001
10-year-old David Peltier was surfing at Sandbridge Beach when he was attacked in four feet of water on a sandbar. Peltier was with his dad and brothers when the shark attacked the boy, leaving a 17-inch gash and severing an artery in his leg. Peltier’s father hit the shark over the head until it released his son. The child was rushed to the hospital but later died from his wounds.
Ian Redmond, 2011
This shark attack tragedy is deepened by the knowledge that Redmond’s death could have possibly been prevented. Redmond was honeymooning with his wife Gemma Houghton in the Seychelles off Anse Lazio beach. Redmond was snorkeling a mere 20 yards from shore while his wife sunbathed.
The shark ripped off Redmond’s arm and leg. A vacationing doctor tried to save Redmond but he bled to death on the beach. His new wife saw the entire attack. Two weeks prior, a shark killed a man 400 yards from where Redmond was attacked. The Seychelles tourism chief was blamed for not warning beach goers about the first attack.
The Sinking of the La Seyne and the Onda, 1909
When a French steamer, the La Seyne, collided with a British-India steamer, the Onda, in heavy fog in the Rhio Strait, the La Seyne sank within two minutes. Approximately 101 people died from shark attacks, including Joseph Coulailhac, the captain of the La Seyne.
Pacific Coast Multiple Shark Attacks, 1984
A rash of shark attacks over a 15-day period included this especially vicious attack to abalone diver Omar Conger near Santa Cruz, California. Conger’s friend and dive buddy Chris Rehm described the attack, “It grabbed him from behind, and while shaking him violently, pulled him under the water.” After charging him “like a submarine,” the shark released Conger and Rehm was able to pull him to shore. Conger bled out before he could be rescued. Barry Wilson, 1952
The teenager was attacked near Lover’s Point off the California coast. Witnesses saw the shark grab Wilson and then pull him under. They rushed to rescue Wilson and fought with the shark for 30 minutes. Wilson bleed to death before they could reach the shore.
Peter Clarkson, 2011
Peter Clarkson had had a vicious brush with sharks 10 years prior to his fatal encounter. Clarkson was killed by two great whites near Coffin Bay during a dive. His body was never found.
Terrence Manuel, 1974
Manuel was attacked by a 10-foot great white while diving in 30 feet of water. His friend John Talbot was on a boat when Manuel broke the surface and yelled, “Shark!” As Talbot scrambled to get him into the boat, the shark held Manuel back where he bled to death in the water.
Randall Fry, 2004
Fry and his friend Cliff Zimmerman were diving for abalone off the coast of California when a shark attacked Fry without warning. Zimmerman recalls that he heard a “whooshing” sound and turned to see that Fry was gone. He then saw a shark fin surface in a swirl of red. Zimmerman swam for his life and made it to shore. Fry’s head and body were found the next day.
Mick Fanning, 2015
Apparently a shark did not want Mick to do so well during his pro surfing competition at Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa. The spooky/HORRIFYING thing about the attack is that it was caught live on camera. As Fanning was going for the line up, the shark went for him but got caught in his surfboard tether before it could snag the surfer. Fanning got away unharmed because he punched it. HE PUNCHED IT.
Fanning didn’t see teeth but he did get to punch the shark and live to tell the tale. Another surfer, Julian Wilson, quickly got out of the water because he isn’t a fool either. The surfing competition’s safety team was on it and got both surfers out of the water asap.
The dramatic footage captures the attack and Fanning’s in-the-moment reaction.
Brook Watson, 1749
A 14-year-old British merchant sailor, Brook Watson is the first recorded shark attack victim. He was swimming in the Havana harbor when a shark attacked him. The shark circled back to finish him off when Watson’s crew mates jumped in and saved him. Watson lost his leg as a result of the attack but went on to serve as a Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of London.
This super dramatic portrait of the attack was the YouTube hit of its time.
Deborah Franzman, 2003
Franzman was swimming with a pod of sea lions when a shark attacked her just off Avila Beach, California. The shark may have mistaken Franzman for one of the sea lions. Witnesses tried to save Franzman but she didn’t survive. Her partner saw the entire attack from the shore.
New Smyrna Beach Florida – Just About Any Time
A popular chomping ground for bull sharks, New Smyrna Beach has yet to have a fatal attack. Still, 238 attacks is A LOT.
Experts theorize that the reason for such the high volume of shark attacks is the density of people. Swimmers, surfers, and fishermen don’t seem to care about the sweet, deadly kisses and nibbles of sharks.
Because Florida does what it wants.