In Depth

British diver ‘stalked’ by tiger shark while lost at sea

John Craig swam for three hours to reach safety after becoming separated from his boat

On Friday evening, a search and rescue plane spotted missing 34-year-old John Craig walking along the shore in a remote area of Western Australia. When rescuers caught up with the exhausted diver, he had an incredible story to tell.

Craig had taken a boat out spearfishing with a friend earlier that day. While underwater, his spear gun became trapped under a rock, and when he eventually managed to dislodge it and return to the surface, the boat had drifted out of sight.

However, he was not alone in the aptly named Shark Bay. As he trod water and called in vain for the missing boat, the British expat spotted an unwelcome visitor at his side - a tiger shark, which is second only to the great white shark in terms of fatal attacks.

“It was easily the biggest tiger shark I’ve been in the water with and that’s saying something having worked as a dive instructor for over ten years,” Craig, who emigrated from Sunderland two years ago, told the Sunderland Echo. Adult tiger sharks can reach more than 5m (16.5ft) in length.

"I watched the tiger shark circle and then suddenly approach me multiple times from different angles,” said Craig, who used his spear gun as a barrier to prevent the curious predator getting too close.

Spotting the Francois Peron National Park’s distinctive red cliffs on the horizon, he began the gruelling four-mile swim to safety. However, the tiger shark followed close behind.

"At this point I thought I was gone - four nautical miles out to sea with a huge tiger shark following me," he told the BBC. "I would look back and see its head come out of the gloom and at my fins, keeping pace with me.”

After 15 minutes, the shark disappeared from view. Understandably, Craig was reluctant to wait around for its return and swam for another three hours without stopping until he reached the shore and started heading for a nearby campsite.

By this time, his friend had alerted authorities to Craig’s disappearance and he was spotted by a sea rescue plane around an hour later as he walked along the coastline. He was then taken onto a rescue boat where his wife, Emma, was waiting for him.

Craig told the Sunderland Echo he was “eternally grateful” to the emergency services for ending his ordeal, which he described as “the worst thing I've experienced since the 1998 play off final against Charlton”. 

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