History of shark attacks in the Mackay and Whitsunday region
History of shark attacks in the Mackay and Whitsunday region RamonCarretero

SHARKS: A history of gruesome attacks in our waters

IN 130 years, there have been only 25 shark attacks in the Mackay and Whitsunday region, and one of those is contested.

Last year, two shark attacks occurred within 24 hours and another just one month later.

But prior to September 2018, it had been eight years since the last attack.

Since the first recorded shark attack in Bowen in 1889, statistically, more males have been bitten by sharks than females.


Of the 25 attack victims the Daily Mercury is aware of, only five were female.

Between October 25, 1911 and April 26 1935, seven attacks were recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, with no indication of where.

In the past there were two fatal shark attacks that have entered local folklore.


Jim Hamilton with his rifle and others with the shark that was hooked after Frank Gurren was mauled.
Jim Hamilton with his rifle and others with the shark that was hooked after Frank Gurren was mauled. Daily Mercury archives

On December 14, 1939 a 20-year-old railway worker, Frank Gurren, was fatally mauled by a shark in what was known as Rubbish Dump Creek, now the site of Caneland Central.

In a story written by Leo Mulherin, who witnessed the attack, he said:

"Pat, Dezzy and I then bantered him about being a sook for not diving in, but he good-naturedly played along with us and said he couldn't swim

"However, a couple of minutes later, he dived in, surfaced about 20 feet (6m) out and then yelled out 'Shark!' And made a couple of very fast strokes back towards us and then his head went under water. I can recall as plain as anything that we laughed and thought he was putting on a good turn, as we thought he was still skylarking with us.

"His head came out of the water again about six feet (1.8m) from us, and he yelled out 'Shark' again. Then we saw all the blood around the back of him and the tragic truth dawned on us, as he frantically swam to the bank.

"At this stage, the tide was level with the bank of the creek.

"Instinctively, the four of us raced to the edge and pulled him onto the bank. I will never forget the awful sight of his legs. Both legs terribly mutilated and blood pumping out made a gruesome sight after the shark's two attacks on him."


A few years earlier, waterside worker Patrick Quinn died at Flat Top Island.

Brian Ford's account of the August 26, 1935 tragedy was published in the Daily Mercury in 2018.

"On the lighter, Mr Quinn went to the seaward side of a life boat to urinate into the ocean, when, it being a fairly boisterous sea, the two ships bumped heavily together. He fell into the sea. A mandatory safety rope that should have been in place, was missing.

"My late father Tom Ford, saw him and threw him a circular life buoy, which he got over his head and under his arms in the correct fashion ... however, the sea washed him from the lighted area to the darkness under the larger ship's stern where the sharks attacked him.

"The sailors refused to launch a boat to search for him and this was then done by my father, a Mr Jack Ferguson and a Mr McAdam ... all wharfies.

"They were unsuccessful in their search and were eventually towed back to the ships by tug, as the rough seas were propelling them towards the shores at East Point."

At the time, the Daily Mercury reported that the search for his body went on for two days. A large shark was hooked and in its stomach part of a leg identified as Mr Quinn's was found.

More than 25 years later, two young people were mauled by a shark at Lamberts Beach on December 28, 1961.

Margaret Elizabeth Hobbs, an 18-year-old student teacher from Owens Creek, died two days later from extensive injuries.

A friend, Hans Martyn Steffens, of Brisbane, who tried to fight off the shark while holding Miss Hobbs, had part of his arm amputated because of the wounds inflicted by the shark.


Article on a shark attack that killed a 16 year old at Blacks Beach.
Article on a shark attack that killed a 16 year old at Blacks Beach. Daily Mercury archives

In the Mackay region the most recent fatality resulted in the death of a teenage boy at Blacks Beach.

On November 30, 1984 Nicholas Bos, 16, was mauled by a tiger shark after he fell from a catamaran.

The Daily Mercury reported the Sarina State High School student, who had been enjoying an end of school day at the beach, was swimming for a life jacket when the shark struck, ripping out his stomach and rib cage.

'HORRIFIC': Whitsundays shark attack victim dies in hospital


Dan Christidis, 33, was killed by a shark in November of 2018

Shock conclusion from Cid Harbour shark research team

List of attacks

  • November 22, 1889 - Bowen, male, fatal
  • November 24, 1910- Mackay, male, not fatal
  • October 25, 1911 - Great Barrier Reef, male, not fatal
  • January 1, 1910 - Great Barrier Reef, male, fatal
  • October 4, 1921 - Great Barrier Reef, male, fatal
  • May 22, 1923 - Great Barrier Reef, male, fatal
  • July 2, 1923 - Great Barrier Reef, male, not fatal
  • April 17, 1929 - Great Barrier Reef, male, not fatal
  • April 26, 1929 - Great Barrier Reef, male, not fatal
  • March 30, 1935 - Great Barrier Reef, Mackay, male, not fatal
  • August 26, 1935 - Flat Top, Mackay, male, fatal
  • December 14, 1939 - Rubbish Dump Creek, Mackay, male, fatal
  • November 27, 1960 - Blacks Beach, male, not fatal
  • December 28, 1961 - Lamberts Beach, Mackay, male, not fatal
  • December 28, 1961 - Lamberts Beach, Mackay, female, fatal
  • October 21, 1972 - Steven's Reef, near Mackay, female, fatal
  • November 30, 1984 - Blacks Beach, Mackay, male, fatal
  • January 25, 1997 - Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, male, not fatal
  • February 28, 1997 - Whitsunday Passage, male, not fatal
  • February 13, 2010 - Dent Island (Hamilton Island), female, not fatal
  • September 19, 2018 - Sawmill Bay, Whitsundays, female, not fatal
  • September 20, 2018 - Cid Harbour, Whitsundays, girl, 12, not fatal
  • November 5, 2018 - Cid Harbour, Whitsundays, male, fatal
  • January 10, 2019 - alleged attack, Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, female, not fatal
  • March 27, 2019 - Black Reef, Whitsundays, male, not fatal