"Poke The Bastard In The Eye"
"The Shark Swallowed His Whole Head"
By Darryl Mason
The three metre long white pointer had slammed its jaws shut on his head. It was dark in there. But he knew how to make the shark let go. He hit the shark with his abalone hammer, and poked it in the eye....
When I learned to dive in my early 20s, the men from the dive shop who taught me seemed like gods of the ocean. They'd travelled to dozens of countries to dive on reefs and wrecks. They'd had more adventures in five years than most people have in a lifetime.
They were full of stories about how they'd 'surfed' on the back of whales and wrestled seals and been carried along for miles holding onto the fins of dolphins.
But the best stories they had were about sharks.
White pointers in particular.
If you dive regularly off the East Coast of Australia, you're going to eventually see a shark swimming around down there in all that glorious glowing blue.
Most of the time, the sharks won't bother you. They might give you nudge, just to see if you are a seal, or something else worth taking a bite out of.
But the divers who instructed me recommended that if a shark ever came to close, or I was feeling nervous about its presence, all I had to do was give it a smack in the snout or simply drive a finger into its eye.
"You're shitting me," I said. But they weren't.
"Nuh. That's what you do, mate. Just poke the bastard in the eye. He'll bugger off quick smart."
Large sharks have next to no natural enemies in the oceans, except for man. They're not used to getting beat up, or having their eyes poked. It freaks them out, the divers insisted.
Never got the chance to see if they were telling the truth, or if it was yet another tale tall of the these instructors greatest diving days.
But abalone diver, Eric Nerhus got the chance yesterday to try the 'theory' out yesterday, near Eden.
And it worked.
This is definitely one of the best tales I've heard in months. If you were at the pub with this guy, having a few, swapping stories, you'd be thinking, 'no matter what I come up with, this bastard's got the story to beat them all'.
And he has. Oh, yeah, Erics' got the best story of them all :
The shark had Mr Nerhus's head in its jaws, but marine experts say it chewed him then spat him out when it realised he was not a seal.
Mr Nerhus, 41, a black belt in karate who has been diving professionally for five years, was scouring reefs at Cape Howe, near Eden, with his son, Mark, 16, when the shark pounced about 9.30am.
In an instant the shark snapped its jaw around Mr Nerhus's head with such force it crushed his face mask and broke his nose.
He fought to break free but Mr Nerhus's torso was then pulled into the shark's mouth and it bit into the diver's sides.
"He was actually bitten by the head down," said a friend and fellow diver, Dennis Luobikis. "The shark swallowed his head."
But the white pointer, probably weighing about 500 kilograms, would not have liked the taste...
"They go for rich, fatty meat, like seals, and with his black diving outfit moving around in the reef [Mr Nerhus] would have looked like a seal. Humans are not a part of their diet"
"When it bit into this scrawny human being it would probably have thought 'yuck' and let him go."
Mr Nerhus, who was recovering in Wollongong Hospital last night, told friends and rescuers he had used his abalone chisel to hit the shark about the head and poke its eye to escape...
"Everything went black," Eric told his rescuers, who hauled him out of the water and into a boat for the hour long trip back to shore.
Eric was diving in eight metres of water when the shark mistook him for a seal :
He escaped with deep puncture wounds to the chest and shoulder and a broken nose. His weight vest prevented more serious injuries.
"He came up to surface and was going 'oh help, help there's a shark, there's a shark'. I went over and there was a big pool of red blood and I pulled him out of the water," Mark said.
His son, Mark, was working on a boat nearby. Eric's main concern was that he had suffered horrific facial injuries from the attack. He thought if he was left disfigured, it would upset his son.
Another fisherman, Reece Warren, said: "He had bite marks all around his chest. He said 'the abalone are all right down there'."
Paramedics said they were amazed by the composure of Mr Nerhus, who declared "I'm all right" as he arrived at Wollongong Hospital.
Fellow diver Dennis Luobikis said it was a miracle his friend had lived.
"Eric is a tough boy, he's super fit," he said. "But I would say that would test anyone's resolve, being a fish lunch. He's up and about and he's sore and sorry."
There has been a rash of sightings of great whites – also known as white pointers – in recent weeks due to unusually cold waters off Eden...
Somebody needs to come up with a special plastic tool for divers and surfers they can slip into their wetsuits. The Shark Eye Gouger.
One of Eric's best mates said he was a "fearless warrior" and the shark wouldn't have known what hit him :
"He's a black belt in karate, which would give you a bit of discipline. If you panic you're in trouble.
"The eyes [of a shark] are a vulnerable spot. It would have been an instinctive reaction to find the eyes. This won't faze Eric. Now it will just give him the opportunity to get his shirt off and show his scars."
So now you know.
The next time a three metre long white pointer shark bites down on your head and tries to swallow you whole, go for the eyes.
The divers weren't telling me tall tales after all.
What a story.
Why Sharks Attack Humans - Particularly In Australia
Man Attacked By White Pointer Off Western Australia Vows To Keep Diving
Everything You Need To Know About The Great White Shark
A Short History Of Abalone Diving In Australia