JAWS OF DEATH: I was swallowed by a great white shark – I’ll never forget what it felt like


A Diver has revealed the terrifying moment he was swallowed whole by a great white shark as it tried to eat him alive.

Eric Nerhus, from Eden, Australia, is one of very few who have been inside the jaws of the fearsome predator and survived to tell the tale.

Eric was scouring reefs for abalone – a type of edible sea snail – at Cape Howe on New South Wales' rugged southern coastline in January, 2007.

But as he was diving, a great white shark charged him – swallowing his head and torso whole.

The veteran waterman then found himself inside the belly of the 10ft beast as its jagged teeth sunk into his body and its jaws clamped shut.

The monstrous creature then tried to swallow him, crushing his head and chest, which were only protected by his heavy diving gear.

Inside, it was pitch black as Eric looked down the back of its throat with his arm dangling in front.

As its teeth gnashed into his flesh and started to thrash him around, Eric was now in for the of his life – a horrific ordeal that he will never forget.

An incident report obtained by The Sun Online from the Global Shark File can now reveal the horrific details that ensued.

It all began around 9am when Eric began his 26ft descent to the sea floor and started bagging the highly sought after mollusc.

He was 41 at the time and was working as a professional abalone diver.

Weather reports on the day forecasted rough conditions – fierce enough to deter most seasoned divers from taking the plunge.

In the weeks prior, there had also been some white pointer sightings in the area due to unusually cold waters.

However, it was a spot Eric had dived on 100 times before.

And that morning his 16-year-old son, Mark, was his trusted deckhand.

Eric said: “When you are a diver and you're in that domain you've got that inkling in the back of your mind wondering if a shark will show up.

“A bob of seals or big fish shoot past you… you think ‘ok I wonder what's chasing them'

“That's when the hair on the back of your neck will stand up.”

Abalone divers can spend up to eight hours below the surface using lead weight vests to control their buoyancy.

They are usually hooked up to a machine on the boat that feeds them oxygen through a hose that's connected to an industry-grade mask.

Despite that day's murky water, Eric was in his element, casually making his way around submerged boulders.

He was in the tranquillity of the deep blue Tasman Sea and the only thing he could hear was the hum of his air regulator.

He took a reassuring upwards glance at the hull of his boat and continued on with the task at hand.

Next minute, everything went black.

Eric came to the vice-like pressure of his torso being crushed between two trucks colliding.

Eric said: “One minute it was day light, the next second everything went black.

“Inside the jaws it was just dark, I couldn't see anything because I was looking down the back of his throat.

“I've never experienced anything like it.”

Remarkably, Eric was still alive.

The shark's first bite was absorbed by his diving mask and air regulator, which split and broke his nose instantly.

Angered that its prey had not relented, the monster took a wider chomp pushing the further down its pharynx.

This time, the brunt of the bite was taken by his lead-weight vest.

And at least 14 sharp jagged teeth had now sunk in and had a grip of him.

Eric said: “I started to get shaken horizontally with a really hard threshing motion.

“I thought ‘is this the end, is this what is like to die'.

“I was actually being eaten alive.”

Amid the horror, his survivalist instinct kicked in and he felt around for its eye socket and proceeded to gouge it.

Suddenly the clamp of the jaws released.

Eric said: “I started to wriggle out backwards and I wasn't sure if I was going to get out or not.

“Just as I thought I was getting free, the bottom jaw closed and I felt the teeth sink into the back of my head and into my skull.

“I twisted its eye as hard as I could and the shark reacted again and let go.”

Eric managed to escape and quickly put the regulator back in his mouth to get some oxygen.

The terror, however, was not over.

According to Aidan Martin, a shark scientist, one of the hunting strategies of a white shark is to make an initial, crippling bite on a prey animal, then retreat until it bleeds out and becomes an easier meal.

The man was now hovering above the sea floor, blood spewing out of his lacerations and was being tightly circled by the shark with its black, glassy five inch eye traced on him.

Eric said: “The big round black eye was staring straight into my face with not one hint of fear of any boat, any human, or any other animal in the sea.

“It was the scariest site I have ever seen.”

Eric calmed himself and had to make the daring decision to swim for the boat.

He spread his arms and legs in an attempt to alert the shark that he was not a seal.

Eric slowly made his way to the top with the shark still circling, brushing his flippers with its tank-like body.

He broke the surface and his son desperately pulled him aboard.

Emergency crews were reached and he was flown to Wollongong hospital by a Snowy Hydro rescue helicopter.

He required 75 surgical sutures to stitch him back up but the tough Aussie had survived.

The fear, however, was too much to ever return to the water.

Eric said: “I am glad I am still around.

“Sometimes you get a break in life… I'm a working man that just wanted to survive very, very badly, at all costs.

“I have no animosity towards the shark because I realise it obviously mistook me for its natural prey, which possibly would be a seal.

“When you think about it, this was probably a one in ten million chance of escape.”

For his pal John Smythe, who has been diving for more than 50 years, it was the most epic tale of survival he had come across.

He told The Sun Online: “I've been hassled by makos, stalked by wobbies, crawled under rocks to hide from big whites… but Eric's escape was incredible.”

The recollection comes as Australia experiences a surge in shark attacks.

The occurrence of unprovoked shark bites has increased globally for more than 30 years but Australia has been identified as a “hotspot”.

Those claims were backed up by a study that was published last year called: Increased shark bite survivability revealed by two centuries of Australian records.

While bull shark survivability increased over time between 1807 and 2018 – survivability decreased for both tiger and white sharks.

Especially when the person was doing an in water activity, such as swimming or diving.

Just a month ago, 16-year-old Stella Berry was mauled to by a shark.

It was Western Australia's first fatal shark in the Swan River for 100 years.

As of March 2023, there have been seven shark attacks in the country, three of which have been fatal.

And by October last year, seven people had already been by sharks.

It was a spike that had not been seen in the country for 86 years.

The highest annual figure on record was in 1929, with nine deaths.

However, the probability of shark-human interaction is extremely low and the likelihood of a bite being fatal is even lower.

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