They’re some of the most feared predators on the planet. With ferocious teeth and a bite from hell, you rarely see them coming. But every so often a person comes eye-to-eye with a killer and survives.
“I look down and there’s a massive shark head attached to me,” said Paul de Gelder. “I was swimming through a pool of my own blood. I thought I was dead.”
De Gelder, a highly trained diver, was out in the ocean off the coast of Garden Island, Australia, when a 10-foot bull shark pulled him under and shred through his arm and leg. Navy surveillance tapes captured the moment, one of the few shark attacks ever caught on camera. The attack lasted just 8 seconds.
“The shark continued to shake me like a dog with a ragdoll,” said de Gelder. “I can see the lip pulled back, I could see the gums, and I could just see these teeth all across my leg and over my wrist. It was just a pink plume all around me. It hurt with an intensity I can’t even describe.”
He managed to escape the shark and swam to a boat. De Gelder lost both a hand and a leg that day. Experts say shark attacks on humans have reached an all-time high. There were 80 cases of unprovoked shark attacks on humans last year. A decade ago, there were just 60 attacks. In some parts of the world, there’s an alarming trend of sharks developing a fatal attraction to shallow waters. But the chances of a shark attack are still extremely rare: 1 in 11.5 million.
Research shows shark populations are declining, so why are attacks on the rise? Some experts believe human activity could be to blame. They say humans have been destroying the ocean for decades: polluting the water, overfishing and taking away the food sharks normally eat.
Coming face to face with death didn’t stop de Gelder. He continues to dive regularly, even with sharks.
“Someone was smiling on me that day.”
ABC News’ Sam Champion teamed up with Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” for a closer look at the ocean’s most fierce predator. “Shark Week” airs every night this week on Discovery.