Tiger sharks are one of the deadliest species in the world. So when British diver John Craig found himself adrift off Western Australia and being circled by a four-meter tiger shark, he knew he was in trouble.
“Its head was nearly a meter wide, it was about three times the girth of me and it was just like a submarine just circling,” said Craig, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
Craig, 34, had been spear-fishing underwater in Shark Bay—a World Heritage Site off Western Australia renowned for being home to large numbers of sharks—on Friday. His dive partner was in their boat, which was swept away while Craig was underwater.
Craig said he splashed and screamed for help, which had the unintended effect of attracting some unwelcome marine visitors.
“After five minutes it was clear I was on my own,” said Craig. “I put my head in the water to check I was in the same place and suddenly saw a huge four-meter tiger shark approaching within arm’s reach.”
Behind the great white shark, the tiger shark is the species most commonly implicated in unprovoked attacks by sharks on human beings, according to the International Shark Attack File.
Craig said he also spotted a large sandbar whaler shark circling behind him and decided he had to try and swim for shore.
He told the BBC that the shark was “extremely close and curious” and kept approaching him from different angles. “It was trying to work out what I was and whether I could be on the menu,” said Craig.
The diver—who has years of experience as a dive instructor—started swimming towards the Francois Peron National Park cliffs, a remote region in Western Australia. But he said that he was unable to shake the tiger shark, which followed him on the swim for about 15 minutes.
“At this point I thought I was gone—four nautical miles out to sea with a huge tiger shark following me—I thought this was it, this is how I am going to die,” Craig told the BBC.
But after a while, the shark disappeared. Craig swam for three hours and 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) to reach shore, where he saw rescue boats and a plane searching for him. The plane did not spot him at first and Craig walked towards a remote campsite some five kilometers (3.1 miles) away before he was finally spotted.
Craig was reunited with his wife on one of the rescue boats. And he said that after arriving back in the nearby town of Denham, his first task was to buy drinks for members of the Volunteer Marine Rescue crews, police and local boat owners who helped bring him to safety.
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