Thursday, February 17, 2011

Overboard fisherman survives shark-infested waters, 7-hour swim

Article first published as Overboard Fisherman Survives Shark-Infested Waters, 7-Hour Swim on Technorati.

The abandoned boat of fisherman lost overboard. Photo: Gold Coast Bulletin.

When you get knocked overboard without a life jacket five miles from land, you do what Australian fisherman Andy Wilson did Tuesday.

You think of your fiancée, tell yourself “I’m not dying out here,” and you start swimming.

That’s how Wilson survived a six- or seven-hour swim (depending on the source) through shark-infested waters off the Southern Gold Coast of Australia.

It is an amazing story of survival, particularly when authorities feared the 25-year-old had drowned.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Courier-Mail and the Associated Press were among many media outlets that detailed the fisherman's story.

A rogue wave knocked Wilson overboard. When authorities discovered his fishing boat abandoned at sea, a massive search ensued. Wilson wasn’t about to wait for help. Strong currents were pushing him farther out to sea.

“I thought I’d be able to stop and be able to float and get some energy back, but if I stopped for 30 seconds it would take me straight back out to sea,” Wilson told AP.

“There was only going to be one outcome — I wasn’t going to stop, so I just kept going. Adrenaline and just sheer determination.”

Determination, indeed. Simon Deane, a close friend of Wilson’s, told the Courier Mail that Wilson was driven by his love for his fiancée, Katie.

That love pushed Wilson through an unimaginable hardship. He endured painful jellyfish bites, muscle cramps, rough seas and an encounter with a shark, which bumped him hard on the leg. Wilson had seen a shark 10 or so yards ahead of him. 

"It wasn’t a big shark, but he knew it was a shark because of his experience as a fisherman,” Deane told the Morning Herald.

What had to be difficult, too, was the knowledge that a rescue was oh-so close. Twice, one boat passed near him. Alas, Wilson waved but those on the boat couldn’t see him, so he kept swimming.

When he made it to shore at Fingal, Wilson was pummeled about the barnacle-encrusted rocks until he finally reached the beach and collapsed. He slept for 20 minutes before he knocked on a stranger’s door and called Katie, providing a happy ending to a harrowing story.

“He’s a very lucky and relieved boy,” Deane said.


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  1. If he could swim for 6 hours (depending on the source), why didn't he just swim back to his boat?


  2. Good question. First, the seas were rough, and from what I understand, the boat's engine was in gear. Even if the boat was circling, good luck trying to catch it while avoiding the prop. Authorities found the boat doing circles without him in it. It's definitely serves as a reason why you ought to be wearing a life jacket. Especially when you're alone in a boat like that in rough seas.


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