It was 50 years ago today, on 28 January 1963, that 32 year-old Marcia Hathaway, an actress from Milsons Point on Sydney Harbour’s North Shore, would become the last person to be killed by a shark in Sydney Harbour.
The Monday of the Australia Day long weekend was a perfect day for Ms Hathaway to spend with friends boating in Middle Harbour. While wading in waters less than one metre deep at Sugarloaf Bay she was bitten by what she believed to be an octopus, but what turned out to be a bull shark biting her calf, thigh, buttock and left hand, severing an artery in the process.
Her fiance wrestled the shark off her, dragged her out of the bloodstained water, then swam for help, while her friends on the boat tore up bunk sheets for tourniquets. They arranged to meet an ambulance at a presumably accessible point, however, on its way back uphill the ambulance broke down on a steep incline and even with the help of 30 people frantically pushing the vehicle it would not budge. By the time a second ambulance arrived, Ms Hathaway had stopped breathing.
Despite numerous shark sightings (including this bull shark at the very same spot in 2009) and even attacks since, this incident remains the last fatal one in Sydney Harbour. As a matter of fact, on average only one life is lost due to shark attacks in all of Australia annually, while 121 people drown on our beaches each year. Let alone in backyard pools. Or in road accidents.
So, if you’re not worried about getting in your car tomorrow morning, you most certainly should not fear enjoying Sydneys 70 marvellous beaches!!