Kiwi's horror shark attack
A young Kiwi marine scientist's act of kindness to a trapped shark went badly wrong when the 2m predator turned on him in a frenzy.
Kydd Pollock was saved from possible death by his diving mask when the grey reef shark bit him three times in the face and on the head in a lagoon off Palmyra Atoll, in the Northern Pacific.
"He's extremely lucky... considering where it happened on his head [and] where he was at the time... a remote place with few medical supplies and little prospect of getting to [hospital]," his father, Whakatane-based sport fishing charter skipper Rick Pollock, told Sunday News.
Rick said Kydd, 33, had been doing marine research at Palmyra, about 1800km from Honolulu – one of the most isolated islands in the Pacific. Kydd, who was snorkelling, and two or three scuba divers were using nets to capture giant hump headed Maori wrasse for tagging.
"This six-to-seven foot reef shark swam into one of the nets and got caught," Rick said. "My son was... on the other net. They [the scuba divers] cut the shark out and... once it got out of the net it panicked and it made a beeline for the other net.
"It looked like the shark was going to swim right into the net again and get tangled, so he [Kydd] grabbed the floatline and swam down to the bottom with it. The shark swam right past him, went through as he had hoped but spun around – and that's when the attacks started on his head.
"The first bite was on the back of his head. The second bite, which was potentially the worst one, that was the one that his mask took the full... brunt of. It shattered the glass and twisted the mask into a pretzel, so I just can't imagine what sort of force went into that. And then it came back for a third time and grabbed him on the forehead and the top of the head."
Rick said it was extremely lucky the shark didn't inflict a severe injure on Kydd, like puncturing his eye or severing an artery, because it would have taken a medivac 12-24 hours to get him to a mainland hospital. Palmyra is half way between Hawaii and American Samoa.
Instead, his girlfriend Amanda patched him up.
"[Amanda] is there on the island... she's a PhD, not a medical doctor. They didn't actually have a medical officer on there. She was the next best thing," Rick said.
"She's the one that stitched him and sewed him... and stapled him up. I thought it was quite remarkable that she would be able to divorce herself of any sort of emotional entanglement and was able to deal with the issue as it stood. She shaved his head... and did everything that was required, and I really take my hat off to her."
Rick said despite the attack, at about 1.30pm on November 19, his son "doesn't harbour any malice towards sharks at all".
"He [Kydd] doesn't actually refer to it as an attack. He's looking [at it as] more of a defensive manoeuvre from a panicked animal."
Kydd told him about his mauling about an hour after it happened.
"He skyped me. I was kind of shaken. As it sank in, the what-ifs started falling into place and I thought, `Gee it could have been very, very bad'," Rick said.
Grey reef sharks are an aggressive species and have been responsible for a number of attacks on humans.
Kydd, just one year old when his family moved here from the United States, has grown up around the ocean. Rick runs sport fishing charter operation White Island Marine Charters.
At 18, Kydd became the youngest person to obtain a skipper's ticket in New Zealand. He also completed his scuba instructor certificate in the same year. He enrolled at Townsville's James Cook University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science. After co-captaining the family's 17m sport fishing boat Pursuit, he moved to Hawaii where he helped set up an open-ocean aquaculture farm.
Kydd has also constructed an offshore fish farm for the Portuguese government, and skippered a sport fishing boat from Florida to Panama.
Now living in Honolulu, he spends four to six months a year at Palmyra. He is a science specialist for The Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organisation working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.