SHARK! History of Shark Attacks in Georgia

Shark? I love Sharks but I don’t like Sharks to where I am going to cry over it!  Hell, I wish I had Shark skin, but hey Bo… to all the people who want to cuddle with Sharks; I say show me how you cuddle with a man eater.  I want to see you get in the water with the Sharks and show me how nice they are. I would counter that Sharks have better chances at being released when fishing than humans do. As an angler, I rarely take a shark fishing. However, I bet the odds are different for me if I was in the water.  Now I’m not concerned with the little ankle bitters or the elbow nibblers like the Nurse Shark that bit Warren Sap while he was fishing for lobster. In what the International Shark Attack File calls the “hit and run” attack:

These typically occur in the surf zone with swimmers and surfers the normal targets. The victim seldom sees its attacker and the shark does not return after inflicting a single bite or slash wound. In most instances, these probably are cases of mistaken identity that occur under conditions of poor water visibility and a harsh physical environment (breaking surf and strong wash/current conditions). A feeding shark in this habitat must make quick decisions and rapid movements to capture its traditional food items. When these difficult physical conditions are considered in conjunction with provocative human appearance and activities associated with aquatic recreation (splashing, shiny jewelry, contrasting colored swimsuits, contrasting tanning, especially involving the soles of the feet), it is not surprising that sharks might occasionally misinterpret a human for its normal prey. We suspect that, upon biting, the shark quickly realizes that the human is a foreign object, or that it is too large, and immediately releases the victim and does not return. Some of these attacks could also be related to social behaviors unrelated to feeding, such as dominance behaviors seen in many land animals. Injuries to “hit and run” victims are usually confined to relatively small lacerations, often on the leg below the knee, and are seldom life-threatening

No Sir, I’m talking about the 8 foot Bull Shark or the 10′ Tiger Shark that rips you’re whole arm or leg off and swims away with it.  Bo, if you are a quarter mile off the beach in a kayak fishing…you ain’t gonna make it back from fishing.

We were at the G-reef, which is located about 23 miles off Cumberland Island (Georgia Sea Islands, USA)…the buoy marking the reef had been destroyed. One of the divers went down and attached a pop buoy to the chain and then surfaced. The water was not clear that day, and visibility was only a few feet.  A diver was ready to go over the side of the boat to attach the permanent buoy when a 12-foot bull shark charged out of the water and devoured the pop float” – Duane Harris, former director of the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia DNR

Let us review known Shark attacks in the Georgia Sea Islands from the Global Shark Attack File (GSAF) database stats that lay below the surface.

Georgia Sea Islands Shark Attacks


Cumberland Island Georgia 04 June 1876

GSAF 1876.06.04.R-Boardman Mr Arthur E. Boardman of Macon, Georgia was bathing seaside on Cumberland Island Georgia when he was severely bitten on one of his legs by an unidentified shark.

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Daily Constitution Sunday Morning June 4 1876

Offshore Georgia 08 June 1908

GSAF 1908.06.08-Howe Somewhere near the Sargassum Sea off the coast of Georgia the steamship Caribee began floundering and the crew abondoned ship to the life boats, one of which flipped. Everyone in the capsized boat made it back on except crewman Walter Howe who went for a pair of oars 20′ away. Mr. Howe vanished below the surface never to appear again. Although not seen, the men believed Howe to have been taken by a shark.

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New York Times June 15,1908

Tybee Island Georgia 30 August 1912  FATAL

GSAF 1912.08.30-Coffee 12 year old Edward Coffee and 30 other boys were camping on Tybee Island. At some point Edward lead the others into deeper water when he alone vanished beneath the surface never to return again. Everyone else swam back to shore as fast as they could. The article reports that this is the 4th death on Tybee Island this season, including a 3 year old. The fact that a full Moon and “camping” are mentioned would seem to suggest this was sometime after sundown or early morning?

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Atlanta Constitution August 31, 1912, page 5

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Thunderbolt Georgia 05 August 1934

GSAF 1934.08.05-Aimar 11 year old William W Aimar Jr. foolishly decided to swim next to the dock of a shrimp processing facility in Thunderbolt on the Wilmington River. He paid for this poor decision in blood by way of a severely lacerated right leg.

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The Cullman Democrat (Alabama) August 9th 1934
Thunderbolt Shrimp Trawlers  – Georgia Historical Society of Savannah

Offshore Georgia 18 Sept 1953

GSAF 1953.09.18-Graybill Sgt. Larry Graybill and Airman 2nd Class James Henderson’s B-29 went down 200 miles off Savannah while in route from Savannah Georgia to Bermuda. Apparently 13 others were rescued first leaving these two to fist fight sharks to survive. These Soldiers are survivors!

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Savannah Beach Georgia 10 August 1959

GSAF 1959.08.10-Fields 15 year old female Elizabeth Fields of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. was bitten on the ankle while wading in waist deep water resulting in 28 stitches to close the wound. There were bait fish in the water and the attack occurred around 1800hrs.

Jekyll Island Georgia 04 June 1960

GSAF 1960.06.04-Jones USN Ensign John Williams Jones was given multiple lacerating wounds on his lower left leg while swimming in 4-5′ of water along the backside northern picnic area of Jekyll Island. The wounds required significant reconstructive surgery as the report states the shark, “nearly chewed off his lower left leg” although the Ensign returned to full duty status after the repairs healed.

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The News and Courier (Charleston, SC), June 7, 1960, page 7A

Jekyll Island Georgia 07 July 1962

GSAF 1962.07.07-Duncan Gary Duncan, a 12 year old male from Jesup, Georgia and his 30 year old brother Jelon were swimming with inner-tubes when a shark got ahold of his hand “bad and bleeding awful”, his mother said. His wrist and fingers were basically shredded.

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Associated Press

Saint Simons Island Georgia 10 July 1962

GSAF 1962.07.10-Hancock 3 days later, 41 year old Leonard H. Hancock from Rome, Georgia and his family were visiting the beach. He and his 9 year old son were playing in the surf when he noticed a shark going for his son. Mr. Hancock pushed his son out of the way there bye taking the bite to his hand instead. He saved his son from the attack but the damage to his hand was done resulting in severe lacerations to his hand and wrist requiring three hours and 53 stitches to close; He nearly lost his thumb but the surgeon managed to save it.

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Rome News Tribune Sunday July 15, 1962. page 24

Savannah Beach Georgia 20 July 1974  FATAL

GSAF 1974.07.20-Carter The Chatham County coroner Dr. James Metts ruled that sharks killed John Carter a 17-year-old boy who died while swimming in the Back River on the southern end of Savannah Beach. The coroner stated that the individual was basically, “chewed by a school of small sharks.” Sounds to have been a shark frenzy.

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Rome News Tribune, Wednesday July 31, 1974, page 7

Tybee Island Georgia 23 June 1995

GSAF 1995.06.23-Bradley 13 year old Joshua Bradley suffered a shark bite to his ankle while playing in the surf with his sister.

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Rome News Tribune, Monday June 26, 1995, page 3

Jekyll Island Georgia 01 July 2001

GSAF 2001.07.00-Davis 35 year ol John Davis of Milledgeville, Georgia was bitten on the foot by what was thought to be a small pup shark. The injury required six stitches to close and a tetanus shot.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 5, 2001

Tybee Island Georgia 11 May 2014

GSAF 2014.05.11-Meadows 12 year old Ayden Meadows was bitten on his right thigh while surfing. The shark bite involved 7 puncture wounds and required 11 stitches.

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Kill’em All Captain, Kill All the Sharks, Kill the Man Eaters