Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Shark survival

An Australian diver who survived being partially swallowed by a Great White shark has spoken of how he battled to escape from the predator's jaws.

Eric Nerhus described feeling the shark's teeth dragging across his body. His head, shoulders and one arm were inside the shark's mouth during the attack, off south-east Australia.

Mr Nerhus, 41, says he survived by feeling for the shark's eye socket and stabbing with his fingers, prompting the shark to let go.

"I've never felt fear like it 'til I was inside those jaws, with those teeth getting dragged across my body," the abalone diver told Australia's Channel Nine network.

He spoke from his hospital bed a day after Tuesday's attack, which took place off Cape Howe, some 400km (249 miles) south of Sydney. Experts have said that there is a possibility the shark mistook the wetsuit-clad Mr Nerhus for a seal.

"Normally they feed on seal [...] so it's bitten in on this guy thinking he's a seal," shark specialist Grant Willis said. He said that when the shark realised Mr Nerhus was not a seal he may have spat him back out again.

But Mr Nerhus said he was glad his survival instincts had kicked in. "I couldn't think of a worse way to go than to end up as fish food. That's why I fought back. I was determined I didn't want to go like that. I like life too much."

Shark attacks are not uncommon in Australian waters, the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says. There are around 15 a year - one of the highest rates in the world. An average of one a year is fatal.

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