DISCLAIMER: BOTH VIDEOS, PARTICULARLY THE SECOND ONE, CONTAIN SOME DISTRESSING IMAGES YOU MAY FIND UPSETTING. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, IF YOU THINK YOU MAY FIND THEM DISTRESSING, IT MIGHT BE BEST IF YOU AVOID WATCHING THEM.
Following closely on from two fatalities in Reunion and One of the The Chagos Islands, now renamed Diego Garcia, an 18 year old tourist from Sao Paolo, Bruna Gobbi, has been killed in an attack at Recife, Brazil, one of the world's foremost shark attack hotspots.
What makes this incident particularly poignant is that it was caught on camera, as it unfolded, something which, despite the proliferation of technology for recording video and still imagery on everyday devices, is still an incredibly rare phenomenon, with only the attack on Heather Boswell and the remarkable tag team aerial assault on Shanon Ainslie, providing video of any clarity on what happens in the precise moment shark and human collide. Both these victims survived but unfortunately Ms Gobbi was not as fortunate.
Before I go any further, I want to state the obvious in that first and foremost, a young lady has lost her life in tragic and violent circumstances and the nature of the scenes captured on camera are very upsetting and although I find it a little distasteful that the aftermath was filmed in such gratuitous proximity, this video does provide a candid look at the reality of a shark attack, both the attack itself and the reaction from witnesses and lifesavers in the aftermath. Whilst I offer sincere condolences and sympathies to Ms Gobbi's family and friends, I do want to take an objective look at the incident because, as regular readers of this blog will know, this is an area in which I have particular interest.
I do also want to add that some of the comments I have seen on the articles reporting the attack have been pretty appalling, both from the moronic "kill all sharks" brigade but even more so, from supposed shark lovers, everything from claiming some kind of karmic high ground using Bruna Gobbi as a scapegoat for the Shark Fin Trade, laying the blame solely on a young girl for swimming in the sea and far too many celebratory in nature sentiments which seem to see the death of a young girl as a way to point score in favour of sharks. Please stop it, you're actually causing more harm than good to whatever imaginary pro-shark campaign you seem to think you're endorsing.
With all that in mind and looking at the video from an objective, non-emotional perspective, this is a fascinating document which presents the stark reality of a shark attack and provides valuable information to aid the assessment of the attack. That is of course, of no comfort to Bruna's family, but it's something I do want to have a look at.
Firstly, before we look at the attack itself, we have to look at Recife's unfortunate position as probably the world's most dangerous beach in respect of the danger posed to bathers and surfers (surfing has been banned since 1995) from Sharks. Since 1992, there have been 58 attacks at Recife, including the attack this week and almost half have been fatal. Only Port St Johns in South Africa has a worse fatality rate in recent times at 100%, six attacks, all fatal. The areas around Perth in Western Australia are also suffering an upturn in fatalities in recent years, providing more statistical anomalies in what is a traditionally high survival rate in global shark bite incidents.
The yearly average of recorded attacks, bearing in mind not all attacks are reported, shows the average rate of fatalities is around 10% and most "attacks" (bites, bumps, scratches and scrapes) require relatively minor medical attention. The marked difference in the nature of the non-fatal incidents in areas like Volusia County, for example and the catastrophic injuries indicative of attacks at Recife, Port St Johns and Perth, is almost certainly down to the species responsible for those attacks and the activity of the victims, especially Recife and Port St Johns where it is primarily swimmers who are the victims.
All the attacks at Port St Johns have been carried out by Bull Sharks and barring only a handful of incidents at Recife in which Tiger Sharks were implicated, the same can be said of the species responsible in Brazil. The difference in Western Australia is the attacking species, where the Great White is responsible.
At this point, I just want to address one theory I have which could explain the increase in the rate of fatalities in WA, which is the protection of the Great White in Australian waters. Contrary to popular belief, this hasn't resulted in a population explosion, however, it has resulted in more sharks reaching the age of sexual maturity and it is far more likely that a human being will succumb to injuries inflicted by a large mature shark, than a sub-adult or juvenile. The sharks implicated in the fatalities in WA have all been very, very large and in at least three of the recent attacks, the victim has been consumed. These are shark attacks in which predation and aggression has been the motivating factor.
So what happened in this particular attack?
We know that Bruna and her cousin, Daniele, were swimming approximately 70 yards off Boa Viagem beach and had got into trouble in a rip, Daniele later said that both were panicking, waiting for lifeguards to reach them as they feared they were going to drown.
At 0:17 in the video, we see Bruna, clearly struggling with the current, before she is pulled underwater then catapulted upwards, almost waist high from the water as the approximately 7 foot long shark, briefly visible at the surface, bites into her leg and blood clouds the water.
Two lifeguards are swimming towards Daniele who is further from shore as another lifeguard on a jet ski approaches Bruna. The jet ski is positioned between Bruna and the shark and she is hauled aboard as the other two lifeguards assist Daniele and the five head towards shore.
In the second video, it is interesting to note the relative lack of commotion, unlike in the movies, there is very little panic, instead there appears to be more an atmosphere of shock and curiosity. This is the same as my own experience having been present in the aftermath of a shark bite, during which there was an almost nonchalant and morbid excitement for want of a better phrase.
When Bruna is taken to the lifeguard hut, we can clearly see what is a large and catastrophic bite. The bone is shattered and the flesh from ankle to knee is torn completely, the poor girl's foot hanging only by the remaining skin and tissue. The severity of the wound and Bruna's dire situation are illustrated by the lack of blood on the sand and the drained, white complexion in her right leg signifying massive blood loss.
I have seen wounds like this where the victim has survived with rapid medical attention and amputation of the limb, however, bites like this are often fatal due to blood loss and shock. In comparison with many other Recife shark fatalities, this wound is less catastrophic than others but no less tragic. Sadly, Bruna Gobbi passed away after surgery to amputate her leg fifteen inches above the knee.
The footage illustrates the reality of a shark bite in that it's all over very quickly, the courage of Daniele and the lifesavers should not be underestimated as the shark remained amongst them, attempting to reach Bruna, who remains conscious throughout, as she is pulled onto the jet ski.
Recife is an attractive location to Bull Sharks, both naturally and through man made impact, it has river nurseries, deep channels, areas of relative health and biodiversity and the attractant of increased shipping traffic waste. That aligned with high numbers of annual visitors, means that there will be times when sharks and humans collide.
We can only hope incidents like the recent fatalities remain infrequent but one element in all of this which we can control, is how we react, sharks aren't malevolent anti-human killing machines and nor are they carrying out some kind of environmental vengeance against humans so we need to stop reacting as though they are, let's not let agendas cloud how we publicly react to something as tragic as the death of an innocent teenager.