Snorkeling was Mike Fraser's favorite way of relaxing from his job. He was the
leader of a weather station on Campbell Island, one of the most isolated places
on earth. A speck of land between New Zealand and Antarctica, the island is
normally lashed by westerly gales. But on April 24, 1992, the sea was brilliant
blue and the wind a gentle breeze.
As his four teammates snorkeled in the
shallows, Fraser finned his way to 40 yards offshore. He relished the feeling of
oneness with nature. Fraser scanned the ocean bed to familiarize himself with
the depth of the bay so that he might swim with the southern right whales when
they came to breed in the winter. He was relaxed. Large sharks were unknown
After half an hour, Fraser had seen enough. It was about 3.30 p.m. He stopped
kicking and let himself drift. Thud! A huge weight slammed into his right
shoulder. Fraser was flung forward, gasping for breath. 'Must be a big bull
sea-lion,' he thought. An instant later he was hurled upwards, and held
waist-high above the water. Then Fraser looked down. Clamped around his right
arm were the 2 1/2-foot-wide jaws of a huge shark.
Instinctively, Fraser swung his left arm around and punched furiously at the
creature's huge, pointed snout. 'I must warn the others,' he thought. 'Shark!'
he screamed. But his cry became a silent stream of bubbles as the monster
dragged him under.
Fraser's second-in-command, meteorologist Linda Danen was snorkeling 15 yards
nearer the shore with conservation officer Jacinda Amey, electronic technician
Robin Humphrey and mechanic Gus McAllister. All they could hear beneath the sea
was the steady rush of their own breathing. Then came a faint, muffled cry. The
swimmers surfaced and scanned the horizon. Nothing.
Suddenly, there was an explosion of spray. Fraser erupted from the sea,
yelling and fighting ferociously. The four froze at the sight of the water.
Then, chillingly, it opened and closed its mouth around Fraser as if testing the
consistency of his flesh. Judging by its head, the monster was at least 13 feet
long and about 1,300 pounds of muscle and gristle. Daren watched helplessly as
the shark pulled Fraser beneath the waves.
As he went under, Fraser realized death was only seconds away. 'If you don't
free yourself now, you're gone', he thought. He raised his knees, then gave a
powerful kick to the pale underside of the monster's mouth. He kicked again, and
again, tugging desperately at his trapped arm. The shark shook him, its teeth
meshing like shears as they ground deep into his flesh. Fraser kicked again.
Suddenly, he felt a hard wrench and he rolled clear.
Instantly, Fraser rocketed upwards. As his head broke the water's surface, he
sucked in air and kicked frantically for the shore. But as he ploughed through
the water, his body reacted strangely. He looked down at his right arm. It's
gone! There was nothing below the elbow except a shredded stump that pumped
spurts of bright red arterial blood into the sea. Fraser knew that his only hope
lay in getting to his teammates before he bled to death.
Fraser's instincts urged him to swim to shore as fast as he could. But years
of living in remote places had taught him not to panic. He knew that every beat
of his heart pumped more blood into the sea. So, to avoid panic, he forced
himself to give measured kicks. Then, suddenly, Fraser felt a tug on his neck.
He turned and looked into a diving mask. Jacinda! Why didn't she go to the
shore? He thought as she slipped her body under his and began to pull him to the
shore. Waiting there, the other teammates lifted the wounded man out of the