Officials in Hawaii have released a photo showing the enormous bite mark left in a kayak by a shark who attacked two whale watchers.
Daniel Sullivan and his son, Tristan, left the west side of Maui island in their kayak at 11:35 a.m. on Wednesday to go whale watching, the father wrote on Instagram. They later saw two dolphins and a pod of whales. Daniel Sullivan snapped photos of the animals, which he later shared on Instagram alongside an account of the shark encounter.
Around five minutes after Daniel Sullivan took the photos, a shark swam up to the pair, he said.
“[The shark] bit into the kayak, just inches from my leg, rocking us to the right and flipping us into the water next to it on the left side of the boat,” he wrote.
Daniel Sullivan started hitting the shark’s mouth with his paddle, and shouted at his son that it was a shark, not a whale, that had hit their vessel. The pair climbed back into the kayak, before the shark flipped them over once more.
In the water, Daniel Sullivan “saw the giant shark bite on the bottom of the kayak and the water leaking in.” The kayak started sinking, and the pair realized they would have to abandon it in order to survive.
“I grabbed the dry bag. I took out my iPhone, my keys and we started to swim. Behind us we could hear the shark hitting the kayak over and over again,” he wrote.
It took the father and son 35 minutes to swim to shore. Sullivan attempted to call 911, but his phone had run out of battery. So the pair clung to their camera gear and swam, taking a break every 10 strokes to catch their breath.
“We knew the shark might be close and I could use the camera as a weapon,” he said. “I’m alive and I’m not sure how or why, but grateful for my son’s life and mine.”
Daniel Sullivan told Hawaii News Now: “When its mouth rose up and bit into the kayak, it was like a scene out of a movie.
“The water streaming off of it, these giant teeth coming right at us, and then the way it just pushed the entire boat up halfway and pulled us back down into the water.”
Speaking at a virtual news briefing, Daniel Sullivan said the pair tried to flag a boat while they were in the water, but it saw them and kept going, “which was pretty disheartening.”
Tristan Sullivan said: “We’re just happy to be here. It was very scary, especially when we had to swim back with… when it was deep and there’s nothing below you and knowing it’s right behind you.”
The Department of Land and Natural Resources said beaches were closed after the incident and reopened noon Thursday local time.
Daniel Sullivan told the DLNR the shark was between 10 to 13 feet long. The bite mark left on the kayak was 16 by 23 inches. The organization is running tests on samples taken from the kayak to determine the species of shark.
Carl Meyer, of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, said in a statement: “The Sullivan’s description of the shark and the characteristics of the bite impression are both consistent with a white shark. We will be able to definitively identify the species if we are able to recover transfer DNA from the kayak.”