Great white shark launches ‘terrifying’ attack on photographer and son

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A photographer and his son have recalled the horrifying moment they were launched off their kayak and into the ocean by a huge great white shark.

Daniel Sullivan and son Tristan were out in large orange kayak just off the the Ukumehame beach, which is along the West Maui coast in Hawaii, when they suddenly being attacked by the beast in what the photographer called the "most terrifying visceral image I’ve ever seen”.

The pair had been before, and were out there while the father was photographing the 10,000 humpback whales that visit the area to spawn and give birth every year for his new book called Maui: Mauka to Makai, which is a fine art photography book that captures the vast hidden beauty of Maui's mountains and ocean.

But on February 2, the 46-year-old and his teenage son had an encounter they would never have expected.

Speaking exclusively to the Daily Star, Daniel said: “It was one of the calmest most beautiful days. “About a mile and a half off shore we came upon a mother whale, and a calf that had just been born.

“The calf was so small and was still just learning to swim. The mother whale would lift the baby whale up on her nose to her air and bring it up to the kayak.

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“There were also two dolphins and a big male escort whale with them – I stuck my camera housing in the water and photographed them as it was really magical.

“However, shortly after, the kayak was struck suddenly from underneath and thrown out of the water.

“As I looked down on either side of my legs were the jaws of a massive great white shark – it was the most terrifying visceral image I’ve ever seen.”

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Only several inches of plastic stood between Daniel, his son and the shark – which had been attracted to the area by the smell of afterbirth from the whales they were photographing.

The impact of the shark attacking the boat knocked it into the air, resulting in the pair and all of the equipment flying out of the boat into the ocean.

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Daniel, who has spent 18 years photographing underwater, added: “As the giant sharks teeth dug into the boat he pulled us back on top of him.

“As I fell into the water I was still holding my paddle, I began beating him away from me.

“My son had fallen in front of the boat and thought the whale had swam up and breached on us.

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“He had swam to grab my camera, and I yelled at him to get back into the boat.

“We both grabbed the boat and got in but the shark swam up and flipped us over – we were both were terrified.”

Due to the shark ripping a hole into the boat with its teeth, it was no longer buoyant and the pair were essentially stranded in the water with a huge shark.

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The pair found themselves lying on top of the not-so-buoyant boat, while the shark swam below them.

They started to swim to shore, carrying just a phone and a metal camera housing which they planned to use as a weapon if the shark tried to attack them.

They also tried dialling 911, but the call would not work as the phone screen was wet and then died.

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A fishing boat slowed down near but failed to stop – and thankfully, the shark seemingly never returned.

“It was the most disheartening moment of my life,” Daniel recalled.

“We kept swimming and after the longest hour of my life reached the cliffs of Maui's west side .

“Not having the energy or will to swim down to the beach or remain in the water we climbed up to the highway.

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“We were both alive and in many ways I’d felt that I’d been given a second chance.

“The next day I remember waking up and kissing my wife and three kids so happy I was alive.

“Chaos and terror wake us up, but there was no time for fear in that moment – just action."

Daniel is now looking to raise £22,343 to cover the costs of his new book, featuring the photography he took before being attacked, and has launched a Kickstarter campaign.

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