'Mum will kill me if I surf again': Shark attack survivor
30/03/2005 - 14:29:01
Between laughter and tears, a British schoolteacher today recalled in vivid detail how he punched and kicked a shark that sliced into his leg.
Chris Sullivan was surfing with friends on Monday, his first day of a two-week South African holiday, when Â“this big ugly fishÂ” Â– believed to be a Great White shark about 13 feet long Â– attacked him.
Â“It felt like it came up slow and I saw its eyes and it looked really dark grey,Â” said Sullivan, sitting in a wheelchair at the Cape Town clinic where he is recovering from injuries to the right calf, which needed 200 stitches.
Â“It turned and I saw the underneath of its belly. Then I saw its mouth. Then it grabbed hold of my leg. I started lashing out, hitting it. I think I kicked it,Â” said Mr Sullivan, his voice breaking.
Â“ItÂ’s probably in a bad way now,Â” he added, shaking off his tears with a wry laugh.
Â“I pulled the leg out. It felt like a knife through butter and I thought Â’oops,Â”Â’ said the 32-year-old Leeds man, who has travelled the world in pursuit of his surfing passion.
Sullivan said he managed to stay on his surf board and catch a small wave which took him back to the shore where a local vet Â– who had also been in the waves Â– applied an emergency tourniquet to his leg.
Clive Mortimer, the local station commander of the National Sea Rescue Institute, said that Sullivan was Â”extremely luckyÂ”, to have escaped alive.
Sullivan dismissed suggestions that sharks deemed to be a threat should be culled.
Â“I havenÂ’t got a problem with the shark,Â” he said. Â“I was in its water and I was stupid enough to go surfing where there was a lot of sharks.Â”
Â“I donÂ’t think it meant to eat me. I think it just fancied a nibble,Â” he said, adding that he was convinced the shark mistook him for a seal and realised its mistake once it tasted the surfboard and wet suit.
The attack at Nordhoek Â– a stunning stretch of beach about 20 12 miles from Cape Town Â– occurred at the same point where a bodyboarder was killed 18 months ago.
A Great White bit off the leg of a teenage surfer one year ago at nearby Muizenberg, and a 77-year-old swimmer, Tyna Webb, was eaten by a Great White in nearby Fish Hoek last October.
The man who helped treat Sullivan on the beach was WebbÂ’s son-in-law.
Despite the spate of attacks, rescue authorities said there was no evidence that sharks posed a greater threat to humans than in the past.
Ian Klopper, with the National Sea Rescue Institute, said that the rate of attacks had not increased in parallel with the rise in the number of surfers and other sea users. He said there was no scientific evidence that the growth in tourist attractions such as the use of cages to lower people in the water to get close to sharks had made the fish more aggressive.
The Indian Ocean resort of Durban uses nets to keep sharks at bay. However, authorities have so far ruled this out as expensive and impracticable in Cape Town, because of strong winds that would likely dislodge the nets.
Sullivan said he was trying to face up to his nightmares.
He said that every time he closed his eyes during the night after the attack, he saw the shark.
Â“In my dreams I wasnÂ’t winning the battle. It was biting me in two,Â” he said with a faltering voice.
Last night, he followed the advice of his counsellor and forced himself to confront the shark in his nightmares.
Â“Every time it came at me, I hit it,Â” he said. Â“It was a grim night and I woke up with lots of sweats. But now itÂ’s fading and every time it comes at me now, I donÂ’t have to hit it any more. It looks at me with some respect and swims away.Â”
Sullivan said that upon his release from hospital, he and his friends would continue with their holiday Â– and visit tourist sites such as Cape TownÂ’s famous Table Mountain Â– neglected in the past because of his obsession with the waves.
But he said the attack had caused he and his girlfriend, Barbara Robinson, to reconsider plans to buy a house in Cape Town and settle down here. Instead, he said that they would be happy to continue living in Cornwall, even though the waves there Â“are a bit rubbish compared to hereÂ”.
Â“I donÂ’t think IÂ’ll go surfing again in South Africa because if I donÂ’t get bitten by a shark, my Mum will kill me anyway.Â”