Shark grabs diver by the head

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013
Richard Kinsey

A marine biology student bitten on the head by a shark while diving in Fiordland escaped its clutches only when her dive buddy punched it.

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A university student bitten on the head by a shark while diving in Fiordland only escaped its clutches when her dive partner punched it in the nose.

Jenny Oliver, 25, was part of a diving team helping remove a pest weed from Sunday Cove last month, when a seven-gill shark approached her.

The shark swooped over Oliver, making several attempts to bite her oxygen supply, before taking her head in its jaws.

Department of Conservation marine ranger Richard Kinsey, who was diving with Oliver, captured the frightening episode on his video camera.

Oliver told The Press she was "more surprised than scared" when the shark first bit her regulator.

"[I] felt that staying calm and letting him figure out that my dive gear wasn't food would be better than aggravating him," she said.

However, the shark would not leave Oliver alone. It gave up biting her regulator, only to start biting her head and she became trapped in its jaws.

Luckily, she was wearing a thick hood.

Oliver's dive buddy acted quickly, punching the shark in the nose.

"Clearly I was nervous when the shark was shaking the top of my head in its jaw, but it was all over so fast there was barely time for me to react," she said.

Oliver was an experienced diver, having completed close to 400 dives, and said she knew panic would not "solve many stressful situations encountered underwater".

Kinsey had been diving for 17 years and said sharks were often spotted in Fiordland.

"It's not uncommon to encounter one. I've come across them before but never had any issues like this.

"They are potentially aggressive but they're not as big as some other sharks and they usually leave people alone.

"It did get a little bit interesting . . . She was quite lucky".

Environment Southland, the Ministry for Primary Industries and DOC are working together to eliminate the Asian seaweed, undaria, from Sunday Cove.

Oliver, who is completing a masters degree in marine biology at Victoria University, said the experience had not put her off diving in Fiordland.

"I'm looking forward to the next trip. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to dive and spend time in such a special place".

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- The Press

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