Thursday, January 3, 2002

Maui shark attack
sparks call for signs

A snorkeler's harrowing
adventure with a tiger shark
prompts pleas for warnings

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> The state Shark Task Force is considering posting permanent warning signs at a popular snorkeling area at Olowalu in West Maui after a New Year's Day shark attack sent a California man to the hospital.

"It's something we need to seriously think about," said task force spokesman Randy Honebrink.

The area is also the site of two previous attacks, including one that killed a woman in 1991.

Thomas Holmes and Monica Boggs, both of Los Angeles, were grateful yesterday to have survived their encounter with a shark on Monday off Olowalu, West Maui.

Honebrink said task force officials will be talking with Maui residents about posting a warning sign. He said the state has never taken such as action, and although there is no evidence to support there is a high concentration of sharks at Olowalu, there has been a higher incidence of shark attacks.

Los Angeles visitors Thomas Holmes and Monica Boggs, who came face to face with a shark on Monday while snorkeling at Olowalu, said they felt signs should be posted warning about the potential for shark attacks.

Holmes, a 35-year-old recording artist, suffered cuts to his right buttock and both thighs from the shark attack. He received more than 35 stitches and was recuperating yesterday at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Boggs said when she accompanied Holmes into the emergency room, she heard people referring to the area as "a shark pit."

She said there should be warning signs to inform visitors about the danger. "It absolutely needs to be posted," she said.

Signs were posted closing the beach soon after the attack, but were taken down yesterday afternoon following a review of ocean conditions by state officials at Olowalu.

Russell Sparks, state aquatics education specialist, said the beaches at Olowalu were reopened after officials found no large sharks or dead animal that would draw sharks to nearby waters.

"It doesn't mean it's safe," Sparks said. "It just means we don't see any substantial risk. The ocean is the ocean. It's not a swimming pool."

Despite the beach closure signs, some snorkelers were in the water at Olowalu yesterday morning and were called back to shore by state enforcement officers.

Peter Antturi, of Vancouver, British Columbia, said he has snorkeled at Olowalu many times, and he and his son Nicholas had not noticed the signs. "I wasn't looking," Antturi said.

Holmes and Boggs had snorkeled on the south side of Olowalu on Sunday and returned Monday to find an improvement in the visibility of the water. They recalled seeing about 30 turtles in the ocean.

They were snorkeling about 100 yards offshore in about 40 to 50 feet of water close to 1 p.m. when Boggs saw a shark about 30 to 40 feet away swimming from beneath the water up toward them. She screamed through her mask.

"I thought we were going to die," said Boggs, a painter.

Holmes said he turned and saw the shark and began swimming with Boggs toward shore.

"It had a big square head," Holmes recalled.

He turned around again and saw the shark with its mouth open four feet away.

Holmes said he pulled in his legs in and went into a ball. The shark bit him on the buttocks and the thighs.

"I pounded him on the nose twice," he said. "I thought, 'This is how I'm going to die. This sucks. I don't want it to end like this.' I thought ... 'This is like a movie.'"

The shark then went below the surface.

Holmes said based on his description, state officials said it was a tiger shark and 6 to 7 feet long.

He said he did not feel any pain and was not sure if he had been injured and asked his girlfriend if she was OK.

"I was really concerned about my girlfriend," he said.

Boggs said about 50 to 60 yards from shore, they warned other snorkelers about the shark. She then took a look at Holmes, whose shorts had been shredded by the shark and was bleeding.

She said she swam with him in case he passed out and needed help. But Holmes was able to swim to shore.

She got a towel for him and waited with him as a person nearby used a cell phone to call for help.

"She was great," Holmes said. "I was so happy we made it. I was so elated. I felt like the luckiest unlucky guy in the world."

Holmes and Boggs said they do not think the attack will keep them out of the water, but they will keep closer to shore, and they do not plan to snorkel at Olowalu.

There have been at least two other shark attacks at Olowalu.

Henrietta Musselwhite, 56, of Geyserville, Calif., suffered two large lacerations on her back and puncture wounds to a thigh, when a shark attacked her in 30 feet of water about a half-mile offshore at about 11 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2000.

Maui resident Marti Morrell was killed by a shark as she was swimming near her beachfront home in Olowalu in 1991.

san diego natural history museum web site
A new study shows that, counter to traditional belief, great white sharks are actually world travelers, with some swimming thousands of miles on mysterious migrations.

Great white sharks

>> They average 14 to 18 feet long and roughly 1,500 to 4,000 pounds.

>> They are the largest predatory shark.

>> They inhabit temperate waters worldwide, primarily along coastlines. Though not abundant, they are most frequently sighted off the coasts of northern California, southern Australia and South Africa.

>> Anyone who believes they might have spotted a great white is encouraged to report the sighting to the National Marine Fisheries Service at 808-973-2935, ext. 211, or the state Shark Task Force, 808-587-0100.

Source: and the National Marine Fisheries Service

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