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January 2003 Vol. 29, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Serious Shark Attack Raises Questions

from the January, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

A serious shark attack in the Turks and Caicos islands on November 14 is a cautionary note to all divers that sharks are wild animals that can be a significant threat

Michelle Glen, 41 years old, a longtime resident of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was on a Peter Hughes Sea Dancer trip, diving at a site off French Cay. She had finished her dive and was snorkeling with others while waiting for her husband, who was taking photos immediately below, to finish his dive. There were about a half dozen Caribbean reef sharks, 4 to 5 feet in length, in the area at a fairly shallow depth.

Out of the blue water a Caribbean reef shark in the 6- to 7- foot range appeared, then rapidly dived down and attacked from below with a single, lightning fast strike. It hit her right upper arm and shoulder, ripping the triceps and most of the biceps, severing the brachial artery and leaving exposed bone.

The massive blood loss that such a strike can occasion hardly requires mention. It was to her astounding good fortune that her husband, Michael Glen, a respected orthopedist in Fort Walton Beach, and another physician on board, a seasoned vascular surgeon, could stem the hemorrhaging.

A craft from the Turks and Caicos Marine Police Force brought her to shore, where she was evacuated by a U.S. Coast Guard Falcon jet to a Coast Guard Station outside Miami and taken by helicopter to the Ryder Trauma Center at the University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. She was admitted in critical condition, eight hours after the attack. Among other physicians, she was attended by Dr. Anne Ouellette, Chief of the Hand Surgery Division, who remarked that it was the most damaging shark wound she had yet observed.

After several surgeries, she was released about three weeks later. As of now, it looks like the arm has been saved, but how much use she'll have of it remains quite uncertain.

While most people on the cruise have refused to talk, the word is that people on board the boat were tossing food into the water before the attack. Furthermore, two dive operators and an official from the Turks and Caicos Fisheries Dept. have said that surreptitious feeding does take place in this area, presumably to assure that tourist divers see sharks.

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