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A poetically perilous plunge: Fatal shark attacks in Australia and New Zealand

The scene of the February 27th fatal shark attack on A. Strange.
Photo by Halsey Ward

Although the East Coast of Australia is typically known for its pristine beaches and iconic cities, Thursday, April 3rd 2014 marks a grim day for the bit of coastline just outside Sydney in the picturesque village of Tathra Wharf.

Christine Armstrong, age 63, was attacked by a species of shark not yet determined during her habitual morning swim. Armstrong wasn't swimming alone but had been separated from other members of devoted ocean swimmers. The swimmers, of which the victims husband was one of, saw the shark but not the attack on Mrs. Armstrong. The shark, reported as being somewhere between 3 and 4 meters long (10-13 feet), remained at bay from the pack of swimmers.

Armstrong had been swimming in this span of ocean for 14 years and had been a trainer at the local volunteer lifeguard club. In a statement from the victims family and quoted here by the NZ Herald, they state that "Swimming brought her much joy and many friends. She will be sadly missed by all who loved her, especially by Rob, her husband of 44 years."

These fatal attacks are few and far between in Australia and even scarcer in New Zealand. The last fatal attack in New Zealand was, as the victims name suggests, a 'Strange' one. I can speak from experience as I was surfing in those very same waters at Maori Bay merely 4 hours prior to the attack on Strange. The water was eerie that morning. There were numerous 'work ups' taking place near infamous, well known surf points. My mate and I surfed closer to shore and our 'peace of mind' instinct. The Victim, Adam Strange, was swimming near this same work up when he was attacked by at least two Great White Sharks around mid day. Full details of the 'Strange' attack can be found here.

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