SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — The sailor savaged by a shark in Sydney Harbour has been named as Able Seaman Clearance Diver Paul Degelder.
The 31-year-old lost one hand and part of a leg in the incident shortly before 7am (AEDT) at the navy base near the iconic Harrys Cafe de Wheels at Woolloomooloo.
Seaman Degelder – of the Royal Australian navy’s Clearance Diving Team 1, based atHMAS Waterhen at Waverton in Sydney’s north – was carring out an anti-terrorism exercise off the HMAS Darwin docked at Garden Island at the time.
The divers involved in the incident could not identify the species or size of the shark – but it is believed to have been a bull shark.
“The attack occurred very quickly,” Australian Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Nigel Coatessaid.
“The shark attacked the diver (and) our diver punched the shark, I believe, a couple of times.
“The shark then disappeared very quickly – it was all over, I’m told, in a few seconds.”
Admiral Coates told how Seaman Degelders fought off the shark.
“He was with a police diver, I understand, at the time because the exercise included police divers. The attack occurred on the surface,'” he said.
“He fought off the shark. He hit the shark a few times, as I understand it, and then swam a couple of metres to the safety boat which was obviously nearby.
“The safety boat people got him on board, applied first aid, rang triple-0, got him to the ambulance and up to the hospital.”
Seaman Degelders was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital, where a spokesman at 11am (AEDT) said he had undergone surgery and was now in intensive care in a serious but stable condition.
“He’s improved a little bit,” the spokesman said.
“He’s out of surgery and he’s in recovery.”
Admiral Coates said it was the first time he had heard of a navy diver being injured in such an incident.
Since February 2, the Navy has been conducting its Kondari Trial to test new technologies designed to protect Australia’s ports, naval bases and ships from water attacks.
The trials include detecting divers with SONAR equipment and using remotely operated underwater vehicles to inspect the hulls of ships, as well as piers and surrounding sea beds.
But those operations have been called off following the attack.
“We have suspended our diving activities over this exercise until further notice,” Admiral Coates said.
“I understand there are boats out looking for the shark.”
The last shark attack in Sydney Harbour was at Athol Bay, near Taronga Zoo, in 2000, and the last fatal shark attack in the Harbour occurred in 1963 – when Martha Hathaway was killed by a bull shark at Middle Harbour.