First documented shark attack on Northern Rivers in 1937

SHARKS have been in the news a lot lately.

First, there was the brutal attack on Ballina bodyboarder Mathew Lee on July 2, followed the next day by another attack on a surfer at Lennox Head.

Now, the world has watched as Tweed Heads surfer Mick Fanning escaped a shark attack during a world-class surfing event in South Africa.

So how long have sharks been in the headlines?

The earliest headline we could find from the Northern Rivers was in 1937.

It was regarded as the first shark attack in Byron Bay and it occurred just 70m offshore. Thomas McDonald was 16 and a member of the surf lifesaving club when he was bitten twice while swimming near the old jetty.

Luckily he did not receive life-threatening injuries, but two distinct sets of teeth-marks were left on his body. At the time, the bites were attributed to a 2.5m grey nurse shark.

But given what we now know about these sharks, it's highly unlikely a grey nurse shark had anything to do with the attack.

The Northern Star gave a recount of the attack: "McDonald was swimming near the jetty with a number of companions when he heard someone call 'shark'.At the same time something flashed past his leg and he felt a searing pain along his side. He kicked and struggled away and as he swam shore-wards he heard his cousin, a youth named Browne, call to him.

"Thinking Browne had been attacked, McDonald swam back and the shark snapped at him again. He broke free and was then carried in on the breaker."


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