Mike became the holder of a most dubious honour, namely being the most southerly ever recorded shark attack victim.
I really doubt Mike Fraser will forget the 24 April 1992. It was the day Mike became the holder of a most dubious honour, namely being the most southerly ever recorded shark attack victim. The fact a shark attack could occur at Campbell Island seemed strange. Campbell Island is located about 700km south of the New Zealand mainland, and is a sub Antarctic island. The water temperature can get very low, rarely above 9 degrees in the summer, (and around 7 degrees in April) and the average year round temperature on land is 6 degrees. The idea of White sharks at this location, must have seemed incredibly unlikely, especially when one considers the various species of cold water penguins and Southern Elephant seals found on the Island, along with birds such as the Antarctic Skua.
Mike Fraser was working on Campbell Island at the Meteorological base. Sharks were presumably the furthest thing on his mind when he took to the water that day. Mike and four friends went for a snorkel at Middle Bay. Like most victims Mike never saw the shark prior to the attack, there were seals in the water, and he and his companions were content to snorkel with the animals. However something more ominous was near. The shark hit Mike on the side, and Mike temporarily disoriented surfaced and began to lash out in a flight or fight response. The shark removed Mike's arm and then as suddenly as it had appeared swam away. Mike may have initially seemed very lucky, however this was only just the beginning of Mike's battle for survival. The other swimmers obeyed their primal urges and swam for shore but one of his party, a lady named Jacinda Amey defied her own fear, waited for the shark to depart and then swam out towards where Mike was heavily bleeding. Unaware of where the shark had gone she began towing Mike back to the nearby shore, constantly aware that the shark may at any time return. Fortunately the shark didn't return and once on dry land Mike's injuries could be assessed. Mike had completely lost his right forearm and his left forearm was severely lacerated and appeared to be broken. Mike was also having trouble breathing and was still losing a lot of blood. There was no emergency exit from the Island, and with no proper hospital facilities on the island, Mike's immediate future looked bleak. A helicopter was despatched from New Zealand's South Island to rescue Mike.
Mike's companions did what they could for him until the helicopter arrived with a paramedic on board. This wait must have seemed like an eternity for Mike and especially the people waiting with him, who desperately tried to apply tourniquets to the affected areas. Mike then began the journey all the way back to the mainland. Mike fortunately survived this ordeal. Around a 2000 km round journey for the pilot. Jacinda Amey and the helicopter pilot John Funnell received awards for their bravery.
About Amey the government said,
"Ms Amey displayed great courage and bravery with complete disregard for her own safety in going to Mr Fraser's assistance." She was awarded the New Zealand cross.
Regarding Funnell they said
"On the evening of 24 April 1992 Mr Funnell, chief pilot of the Taupo-based New Zealand Rail rescue helicopter, a Squirrel, made a flight to uplift from the remote Campbell Island a man, Mr Mike Fraser, who had been attacked by a shark. Mr Funnell was accompanied by another pilot and a paramedic. The rescue operation successfully carried Mr Fraser to Invercargill Hospital, and he made a good recovery from his ordeal. The Squirrel touched down again at Taupo 25 hours after the request to make the trip. The flight over some 1200 kilometres of ocean was believed to be unprecedented anywhere in the world in terms of single-engine helicopter operations and was undertaken at considerable risk to those on board. Mr Funnell displayed bravery in undertaking this flight without which the shark attack victim would not have survived."
Four days later Mike was interviewed from his hospital bed, and said,
"[f]irst I knew, it hit me on the side … I got back to the surface and I was face to face with a shark. I started using my knees and feet. … I thought my number was up. … It had a mouthful of my arm and had a feed. The fact my arm came off may have satisfied him a bit"
A fragment of a tooth recovered from one of Mike's wounds identified the attacker as the White shark. Not to be put off Mike was back three years later at the research station working.
Understanding the attack in this instance is relatively straightforward I believe. Like most victims, Mike never saw the shark coming, and it hit him hard. It took a sample, in this instance most of his right arm, and then having analysed the meat, left the scene. This fits nicely into my opportunistic White shark theory. The white shark, which was employing it's usual hunting methods at a seal colony, i.e. surprise, realised upon biting the still fighting Mr Fraser, that the calorie content of the meat did not warrant a further attack, especially when a veritable smorgasbord of seals existed on the island. Contrast to Chile where the shark did press its attack due to lack of other viable food sources nearby.
I would recommend catching a programme called 'When sharks attack' it was showed on sky tv in the UK. They take Mike back to Campbell, and he describes his attack.