By Tui Benjamin
A diver whose dad was savaged to death in a shark attack encountered EIGHT of the animals in a feeding frenzy around a whale carcass – but claims it hasn’t put him off going in the water.
Kiwi dad-of-two Barry Watkins, 47, was just five years old when his dad John Leith died on a beach in Te Kaha, New Zealand, in 1976 when a bronze whaler shark ripped off his leg while he spear-fished.
But the diving instructor insists he wasn’t scared when he filmed eight huge tiger sharks – the largest five metres (16ft 4in), almost as long as his boat – off the coast of Garden Island in Western Australia.
Instead power station controller Barry, who now lives in Perth, WA, said he felt privileged to witness the ocean predators feed on the body of the dead whale while out with wife Michelle last week.
Barry, who grew up in Tokoroa in New Zealand’s North Island, said: “We were cruising along and I saw a white-coloured structure in the water about 100 metres in front of me.
“At first I thought it was a partially submerged hull but as we got closer I realised it was part of a whale.
“When I saw the sharks, I thought ‘wow’.
“There were about eight tiger sharks of various sizes and the biggest must have been five metres (16ft 4in) long – almost as long as my 5.4 metre (17ft 7in) boat.
“They weren’t being aggressive but were grazing and coming up and taking bites.
“My wife was absolutely terrified – she would not stand too close to the edge of the boat.
“I wasn’t scared, I was just enjoying the sight really. I have never seen anything like that before. I felt very privileged to be able to film it.
“I don’t feel any animosity towards these animals and I’m definitely not angry with them.
“As a dive instructor I have never worried about sharks but I definitely did feel a lot safer in the boat.
“Looking at the way they bit that meat I realised those teeth would definitely tear human flesh to pieces.”
Barry filmed the footage at midday last Sunday when he ventured out to check his crayfish pots with Michelle and his brother-in-law.
The trio were approximately 15km from the shore and about 5km from Garden Island when they witnessed the spectacle and spent about 15 minutes watching.
Barry’s dad John was just 27 when he was bitten in January 1976 while spear fishing in Te Kaha in one of a only a handful of fatal shark attacks ever recorded in New Zealand waters.
A bronze whaler shark bit him once in the calf and again in his inner thigh in 30ft of water while he spear-fished with friends and he was rushed to shore but passed away on the beach.
Barry added: “I was only five when my dad was killed – I was on the beach and I remember my mum crying.
“Some people think sharks should be culled and if there is one regularly attacking people that has developed a taste for human blood then it has got to go but how do you know which one it is?
“While we watched them I was more concerned about them damaging the boat’s motor by chewing it.”