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Mystery As World’s Deadliest Beach Exploded With Fatal Shark Attacks Out Of Nowhere

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Mystery As World’s Deadliest Beach Exploded With Fatal Shark Attacks Out Of Nowhere

Statistics show that global shark attacks are overall very rare, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth at one beach in South Africa.

From 2007, Port St Johns’ Second Beach exploded with fatal attacks - seemingly out of nowhere - leaving locals living in fear while baffling scientists until the true cause of the killing spree was discovered.

At the time, theories began to circulate about what was causing the phenomenon, which we’ll get into – but first, let’s take a look at why the shark hotspot earned itself the reputation as the world’s deadliest beach.  

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No beach has experienced more deadly shark attacks than Second Beach, with eight fatal incidents unfolding in its waters over the course of just five years. 

This terrifying statistic was marked by the death of a 72-year-old Austrian man who had been swimming in the waters off the popular tourist spot in 2014. 

Prior to this, 25-year-old Lungisani Msungubana and 22-year-old Liya Sibili were killed by sharks in 2012, following the death of 16-year-old Zama Ndamase in 2011.

In 2009 alone there were three fatal shark attacks at Second Beach, among others. 

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Although similar incidents had unfolded in the area before, for some reason they had ramped up since the 2007 death of life saver Siyabulela Masiz.

Bull sharks are dangerous to humans due to their aggressive tendencies and ability to migrate up rivers. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack
Bull sharks are dangerous to humans due to their aggressive tendencies and ability to migrate up rivers. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack

Although many assumed great white sharks were to blame, the deaths were later attributed to the bull shark, also known as the ‘pit bull of the sea’ due to their aggression. 

But identifying which species was mainly responsible was only half the battle - what authorities needed to know was why the sharks were attacking.

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The various theories were explored in a recent episode of National Geographic's When Sharks Attack, airing as part of the network's Shark Week.

One of the initial ideas relating to blood in the water. 

Sharks are known to follow the scent of blood, and some suggested local traditional healers were attracting the sea predators by discarding entrails of animal sacrifices into the waters. 

But when authorities asked the Sangomas to place the entrails elsewhere, the issue continued just a few months later. 

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Others suggested that cage diving - a popular tourist activity in South Africa - was to blame.

One theory suggested cage diving was to blame. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack
One theory suggested cage diving was to blame. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack

Cage diving instructors attract sharks by dumping fish blood and parts into the sea, with studies showing that it causes the predators to become behaviourally conditioned to associate people and the square shape of the cage with food. 

However, experts pointed out that Port St Johns is miles away from the nearest cage diving operation, meaning it doesn’t explain the strange spike of attacks at Second Beach. 

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Some pointed the finger at the noise caused by locals and tourists alike, with loud music and heavy bass vibrating on the ground and attracting sharks to the shallow waters.

But as pointed out by experts in a National Geographic documentary on Second Beach, based on the fact that loud music wasn’t playing during many of the fatal attacks that occurred in its waters, the theory doesn’t check out. 

So, what was really happening at the world’s deadliest beach? While the answer is not definitive, authorities believe it may be down to the changing environment and how this impacts shark breeding. 

Bull Sharks have habit to return to birthplace over and over again. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack
Bull Sharks have habit to return to birthplace over and over again. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack

Estuaries serve as an entryway from the sea for pregnant sharks to breed, but these have been closing up due to erosion and rainfall. 

As these creatures move down the coastline in order to find somewhere to give birth, it’s likely they’re heading to the most significant estuary located through Port St Johns, thereby increasing the bull shark population at Second Beach. 

In addition, bull sharks have a tendency to revisit their birth place repeatedly, also potentially contributing to a higher population, although it should be pointed out they aren’t the only species implicated in the attacks.

Alongside these factors, more people have moved down to the area in recent years, meaning the number of visitors to Second Beach has skyrocketed - and more people means more attacks. 

Of course, the sharks aren’t going away anytime soon - but there has been a glimmer of hope as the bay has experienced numerous seasons without any shark attacks at all.

Thankfully the frequency of shark attacks at Port St Johns has dramatically declined in recent years. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack
Thankfully the frequency of shark attacks at Port St Johns has dramatically declined in recent years. Credit: National Geographic/When Sharks Attack

This is thanks, in part, to the local tourist industry shifting the focus away from swimming and surfing activities and towards other less risky adventure sports. 

Furthermore, authorities continue to warn residents about staying safe in the sea, and to avoid murky water, especially where there may be an affluent fish population. 

So, if you ever do find yourself at the so-called deadliest beach in the world, probably best to do as the locals do and stay safe out there. 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/YouTube/eMCA

Topics: Animals, Travel, World News, Documentaries

Daisy Phillipson
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