February 27, 2003
Alistair Kerr happened to look down just as the white pointer surged upwards towards him, mouth open and teeth bared.
"I never, ever look down in the water, but something told me to look down and there it was, coming straight up at me with its mouth open. That's what's stayed with me.
"Then I felt it grab my catch-bag and got my left arm, it just sort of latched on and lifted me out of the water. The guys on the boat could see that. It felt like it took such a long time ..."
Mr Kerr's friends fended off the 2.5m shark with sticks. When it let go, they pulled Mr Kerr to safety.
The attack happened off Stewart Island.
"We were just looking for somewhere to dive ... we found out later it was the breeding ground for the great white."
Mr Kerr, 54, said there was "a lot of luck around that day".
He has the catch-bag mounted on a wall at home. The shark severed all the tendons in his left hand leaving him limited movement in that arm which is deeply scarred from 60 stitches.
For months he was haunted by the experience. He wanted to get back into diving as soon as he could to "get back on the horse".
"You get worried you'll get munched every time you go back in.
"A few months afterwards, I came across a sandshark, just a normal one about a metre long, and I just really freaked out. I went up and broke down and cried like a baby."
About 10 weeks after the attack, he went to Adelaide to watch great whites - from the safety of a cage.
"And that helped. Then a few years later I went on another dive and came across lots and lots of sharks and that made me feel more comfortable. So you can get past it, but it takes a bit of effort."
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