"I've never seen Mum like that before. She was just trembling on the beach."
If you live in Esperance, a pretty little town once famous for its impossibly clear water but now better known as the world’s Great White attack capital, well, your nerves are going to be a little frayed.
Esperance has become such a byword for Great Whites, the Discovery Channel brought a New York-based marine biologist, Dr Craig O’Connell, to the isolated town to film a documentary exploring the peculiarly aggressive nature of Esperance’s Great Whites.
In October, popular local surfer Andrew Sharpe was taken “almost whole” by a Great White, the body never recovered.
“The body is just fucking gone,” said one witness.
Another witness, swimming with her kid a click away, described the water turning red.
Nine months earlier, diver Gary Johnson was hit by a White as soon as he dived into the water off Esperance to set his anchor and killed. Last week, an inquest heard that his wife dived in after her husband, the water “full of blood and sand”, the tail of the Great White “flapping” up and down.
She described his eyes as “open and lifeless.”
In 2017, teenager surfer Laticia Brouwers, holidaying in Esperance, died in front of her family after being hit by a Great White.
Three years earlier, Esperance surfer Sean Pollard, 23, had an arm and another hand bitten off by a Great White.
There’s a theory kicking around that once a shark has a “blood meal” it’ll return to the area during their annual migration.
On Thursday, six surfers were called to the beach by terrified beachgoers “frantically waving their arms” after a twelve-foot Great White was spotted dangerously close to the group.
Tagon Robbs and Brayden Little were among a group of six surfing a break off West Beach, two minutes from the centre of town, when terrified beachgoers began to wave them in.
“[Tagon’s] parents were on the rock, his dad just got in from the surf, and they were just frantically waving their arms, screaming,” Mr Little said.
“So we all paddled in. We didn’t actually see the shark until we got onto the step.
“Then we saw the shark coming back in through the line up, and it was like probably a three- to four-metre great white, which looked like a little submarine.
“[I’m] pretty freaked out obviously.”
While the Esperance local said he had seen a couple of sharks while surfing before, he said he had never seen one so close nor witnessed such a visceral reaction from onlookers.
“[Other times were] nothing like this. Nothing like the fear and the people running down and the actual fear in their eyes, and so it really hit home this one, it was serious, it was really close.
Mr Robbs said he felt grateful to be alive.
“If there was no-one running down the stairs, you never know what might have happened. We wouldn’t have seen it [the shark],” he said.
“I’ve never seen Mum like that before. She was just trembling on the beach.”
Diver Greg Pickering, who’s been hit twice by sharks, the last a Great White in Esperance in 2013, called for a cull after Laticia Brouwers was hit warning then that WA could expect “more of the same” unless action was taken to reduce growing shark numbers.
An abalone diver for forty years, he told PerthNow, “There wasn’t any. You never saw them. That’s changed now. You’ve got a situation where the numbers have built right back up again. I don’t think a lot of people understand that. The numbers are very high. I’d say they’re similar to what they were in the 1960s. I’ve seen more sharks over the last few years than in the 20 or 30 years before that.”