British dive instructor John Craig, 34, thought he had seen his wife for the last time when two sharks approached him as he was spearfishing off Australia’s western coast after he got separated from his boat.
Craig was free-diving on Friday, Oct. 20, when he got his spear stuck under a rock. When he surfaced, he saw the boat with his dive partner on it looked like a dot in the distance, Australia’s ABC reports.
The boat had engine trouble and had wandered away while he was diving, and so Craig was alone in the waters of Shark Bay, almost five miles from shore.
John Craig was stranded in Shark Bay north of Perth in Western Australia when he was followed by the predatorhttps://t.co/RFZCzhoR8R
— The Chr?nicle (@ChronicleLive) October 23, 2017
He started screaming and splashing to get his friend’s attention, but his friend was too far away. It was then that he noticed a roughly 13-foot tiger shark approaching him.
“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,” he told ABC.
“I quickly turned and saw another large sandbar whaler circling behind me and it was at that point I decided to give up on getting to the boat and save myself.”
As a dive instructor, he knew that his panic was likely arousing their attention, and that if he could just keep calm they might leave him alone.
The sand whaler soon left, probably intimidated by the tiger shark, he said, but when he started to swim away, the tiger shark followed.
“I thought I was just going to be eaten out here in the middle of nowhere … this shark is just not leaving me alone,” he told the BBC. “It was extremely close and curious and kept approaching me from different angles.”
“It was trying to work out what I was and whether I could be on the menu.”
He kept his spear gun between him and the shark as he swam toward the shore of Francois Perron National Park, nearly 500 miles north of Western Australia’s capital, Perth.
The shark trailed behind him, sometimes disappearing into the blue, then reappearing.
“At this point I thought I was gone—4 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,” he told the BBC.
Craig, who had lived in Australia for two years and been a diving instructor for 10, swam for three hours before he got to shore.
At some point, the shark sped up and started to swim beside him “kind of escorting me to shore,” he said, according to The Guardian.
By the time he made it to shore, he was exhausted.
He saw boats and a rescue plane in the distance looking for him and tried to get their attention.
“I just thought about my wife and how worried she’d be. I just wanted to tell her I was alive,” he told ABC.
— Breaking News Perth (@perthbrk) October 22, 2017
On the last pass the rescue plane made before turning in for the evening, it spotted him on the shore walking toward a campsite about 3 miles away.
It messaged a boat with the Shark Bay Volunteer Marine Rescue that came to get him.
“I could not believe that someone could swim that far in such a short period of time,” Glen Ridgley from Shark Bay Volunteer Marine Rescue told the BBC. “I guess where there’s a shark besides [sic] you spurring you on…”
Craig says that although he was scared to death by the experience, he would still recommend Shark Bay for its diving and snorkeling.
“These animals are apex predators, but we are not on the menu,” he said, according to The Guardian. “We need them in the oceans and, as much as it was scary at the time, I can only reflect on how beautiful that big female tiger shark was.”