A “once-in-a-lifetime” trip in May for a woman in Australia quickly turned into a harrowing experience when she suffered a bite while feeding a shark, which then dragged her into the water.
Melissa Brunning, 34, was on a yacht in the remote Kimberley region in the northwest part of the country, located about 1,550 miles north of Perth, when she tried to hand-feed up to four tawny nurse sharks swimming around her boat.
Brunning told the West Australian that she didn’t realize she shouldn’t hand feed a shark, until the animal became “like a Hoover,” sucking her right index finger into its mouth full of rows of razor-sharp teeth.
“I think the shark was in shock as much as I was … the only way I can describe it is this immense pressure and it felt like it was shredding it off the bone,” she told the paper. “I came up and I was like, ‘I’ve lost my finger, my finger’s gone.’”
The shark also pulled her into the water of Dugong Bay, which is inhabited by saltwater crocodiles that can grow up to 23 feet long and weigh more than a ton, according to Sky News.
The entire harrowing encounter was captured on video, which shows Brunning screaming as she is dragged into the water before the boat’s crew and her friends pull her out.
Nurse sharks are “bottom-dwellers” that are mostly harmless to humans, according to National Geographic. They are up to 14 feet long and have “very strong jaws filled with thousands of tiny, serrated teeth,” the magazine notes.
The sharks will bite and act defensive if they are stepped on, or bothered by divers who assume they’re docile.
Brunning sustained cuts, a fracture, a torn ligament and a bad infection from the bite, but did not lose her finger.
The 34-year-old told the West Australian the incident was “completely my fault,” and “just a blonde doing a stupid thing.”
“It’s not the shark’s fault at all, but it could have been a lot worse,” she told the paper, adding, “I’m not a shark victim .. I have full respect for sharks, I think they’re incredible. I’ve always had the opinion that when you’re in the water, they’re top of the food chain, it’s their domain.”