IT TAKES a brave soul to race to the rescue of a stranded great white shark.
There are those teeth for one thing - large and sharp enough to take off a man's helping hand, even out of the water.
But Andrew Eckersley didn't think twice last Friday morning when he spotted one of the fearsome predators washed up on a beach on the Mid-North Coast in New South Wales.
Mr Eckersley and a lone surfer rushed to the 3m shark's aid, treating it with the kind of care and compassion usually reserved for beached whales.
"It was pretty scary at first. This guy in a wetsuit was sort of baling water on to its back by hand and digging out a hole for it on the ocean side," Mr Eckersley said yesterday.
"It was pretty big. I wouldn't have been able to put my fingers together if I was giving it a cuddle."
Using logs they found on the beach, the pair tried levering the shark out of the sand to get it into deeper water.
"There was the thought while we were getting the logs under it that I might pinch it or something and it would lunge at me," he said.
Thankfully, it didn't, but the logs failed to free it from the sand, so the pair tried gently pulling the beast out to sea, "inch-by-inch".
"We got it out to about mid-thigh depth and it was starting to perk up again, which was exciting," Mr Eckersley said.
"I think the other guy started to get his confidence up a bit when he realised it wasn't going to bite our legs off, so he took it out a bit further."
Photographer Ruth Fahey, who captured the remarkable rescue on Hungry Head beach, said she first thought the maneater was a stranded dolphin. "Then I got closer and saw it was this huge shark and just thought, 'Holy crap!'," she said.
Once it got to deeper water the shark slowly started to recover and disappeared beneath the breakers, heading out to sea. But sadly, it was discovered dead on the same beach the following day.
Its jaws had been hacked out by someone as a souvenir, an illegal practice in NSW.
Sydney Aquarium aquatic biologist Sebastian Schmid said it was "very unusual" for a live great white to wash up on a beach and suggested it was already sick when it first came ashore.
OCEANIC DEFENSE COMMENT:
We appreciate these two gentlemen that attempted to save this great creature. Unfortunately, the writer of the article tried to place a sensationalistic "Great White" spin on the piece to make it a bit more "exciting" Perpetuating stereo types does nothing to protect the species already misrepresented so wrongly in the media. - Jeff Shaw - Oceanic Defense
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