- Education and Science»
- Life Sciences»
- Marine Biology»
- Marine Life
Michael Cohen, Shark Attack Victim in South Africa
Michael Cohen is the man who was attacked by a great white shark while swimming in Fish Hoek Beach, Cape Town, South Africa, in September 2011.
On Fish Hoek beach, sharks are a common occurrence, especially in September when for some reason they come closer to the shore.
Other times of the year, they get well fed by the seals on an a local island situated 5 miles offshore.
In South Africa, great white sharks are a protected species. Their numbers are dwlindling world-wide due to overfishing and finning, which is the removal of fins from a live shark to use in sharks fin soup, which is an Asian delicacy.
This could explain why South African authorities have not installed shark nets round this popular tourist beach.
While shark nets do indeed protect bathers, they cause the death of all sea animals caught up in them, including sharks.
So, instead the authorities placed shark spotters around the beach. these people, from an elevated area, constantly scan the seas the shark sightings, and communicate with each via radio links.
When a shark is spotted, flags are raised to warn bathers to stay out of the water, and a siren is sounded.
This is a simple but very effective method of preventing shark attacks.
You must remember that sharks are killing machines, even unintentionally. You cannot hope to make friends with a shark, it is not in their nature.
The best way humans and sharks can co-exist is with mutual respect. They are kings of the ocean, we are kings of the land.
Now, Michael Cohen, a 42 year man who should know better, to be honest, is quoted as having said to his pals before he was attacked, “If a shark takes me, blame me and not the shark.”
Mr Cohen was in the habit of swimming even when the shark warnings were in place.
The shark spotters at Fish Hoek Beach were aware of this. So concerned were they, that they had arranged several meetings with Mr Cohen warning him of the dangers, the last one being in February of 2011, 7 months before he was attacked.
Their boss, marine biologist Alison Kock, 34, was quoted by the Press as saying
“We were shocked to hear about Mr Cohen. I have huge sympathy for him and his family, but sadly he was already known to us.
“We had even discussed his behaviour at a meeting after he repeatedly failed to listen to our warnings.
“We don’t have the power to physically stop people from entering the water, but it is baffling that someone would choose to ignore the safety advice. The attack on Mr Cohen was devastating for the community and for our team.”
On the day Michael Cohen was attacked, the shark had been spotted and warning flags had already been in place for 90 minutes before he entered the water.
He must have had a dare-devil personality! He knew the risks, he had been warned numerous times.
He'd always got away with it before, but not this time, sadly.
Douglas Drysdale, 61, and Hugh Till, 66, were driving along a road nearby when they spotted the 9 foot long shark in close proximity to a bather in the crystal clear waters of Fish Hoek Bay.
The drove as quickly as they could to the nearest point, parked up and rushed on to the shore screaming and shouting to the bather to get out of the water.
But it was too late. They saw a 'disturbance' in the water, and realised someone had been attacked.
Bravely they entered the water and waded out to rescue the bather.
At this point the shark had retreated but it remained frighteningly close nearby.
This is a common activity of great white sharks. They take a bite and retreat, waiting for their victim to die before moving in for the kill.
It is widely believed that sharks do not like eating humans because we have too many bones. However, it is their usual routine to attack a seal, wait for it to bleed out and return for the kill and their supper.
On this occasion, the great white shark took off the victim's right leg, and severely damaged the left, with just one bite.
The two rescuers, having reached the victim, who was later named as Michael Cohen. later reported that as they were attempting to guide Mr Cohen back to shore, a seal appeared and swam repeatedly between the three men and the shark, as if offering protection.
While that makes a nice news story that people will feel heartened to read, it is also a fact that the appearance of the other two men would be enough to keep the shark at bay.
Sharks prefer a solitary victim. That is a fact. if you want to swim in shark infested waters, then there is safety in numbers as sharks do not tend to attack groups.
Douglas and Hugh guided Mr Cohen into shallow water, and then dragged him to safety up the beach.
Their heroism didn't end there.
Michael Cohen was bleeding to death. His femoral artery had been severed and blood was spurting from the stump that was left of his leg.
With the belts from their trousers, they applied a tourniquet that without doubt saved Mr.Cohen's life.
The surgeon who later attended to Michael Cohen, Professor Andrew Nichol, is quoted as saying
“They saved his life. He is very lucky to be alive.
“We replaced his entire blood volume almost twice.”