A 37-year-old scuba diver, moved by the bloody death of a surfer off Monterey, has begun a hunt in chilly California waters for what appears to be one of the largest great white sharks ever documented.
David Fisse, a sometime gold prospector from Medford, Ore., had to be pulled out of the 50-degree waters of Monterey Bay Monday, suffering from chills and cramps after his first attempt to find the shark. He dove in again today, despite a rain storm, and swam for a quarter-mile without finding the creature. On Monday, he had not worn a wet suit and the one he wore today, he said, had a leak.
"I didn't realize the waters were as cold as they are," he said Monday.
He is armed for his hunt with a "bang stick," a short pole with a .38-caliber bullet at the end with which he hopes to incapacitate the estimated 18- to 20-foot-long, two-ton shark that apparently killed welder Lewis Archer Boren, 24, on Dec. 19.
Boren's body, clad in a dark wet suit, was recovered from the surf near Pacific Grove Dec. 24. Monterey County coroner Harvey Hillbun said Boren had suffered "a classic example of a shark bite" and was missing a portion of his upper torso from just below the left armpit to just above the hip.
Boren was last seen alive at the south end of Monterey Bay Dec. 19. His short "kneeboard," which a surfer rides in a kneeling position, washed ashore Dec. 20 with a large chunk missing.
California state marine biologists determined that the board had been bitten by a shark. Marine biologist Daniel Miller said the size of the bite mark indicated that the beast is only slightly smaller than the largest great white shark ever found, a 21-foot specimen taken off Cuba decades ago.
Lt. Jack Lewtschuk of the Monterey County Sheriff's Department said today that although there have been no further shark attacks reported, "there probably are a few left in the water--it's just that they don't attack people very often."
Fisse said he plans to stun the creature with a bullet in its spinal area and then tow it to shore alive and sell it to the highest bidder. He said he is laying the bait for the shark in the area of an undersea trench about three-quarters of a mile offshore.
A San Francisco manufacturer and friend of Fisse said Monday he had promised to build a steel cage for the creature if it is caught but he did not place much faith in the venture.
Monday, after a friend pulled him back into his 18-foot aluminum skiff, Fisse found that the engine would not start because of battery trouble. A chartered vessel nearby took him ashore. "He's nuts," said Cliff Wellborn, owner of the chartered boat. He said the hunt was "stupid to begin with, but let's hope Fisse learns."
According to Miller, there have been 49 unprovoked shark attacks off the California and Oregon coasts since 1926. Four were fatal and attributed to great white sharks. Florida authorities have reported 11 shark attacks, two of them fatal, off the the state's coasts this year.
Although the last fatal attack in the Monterey area was in 1952, Miller said marine experts had informed local officials in October that the shark risk had increased, citing an increased incidence of attacks on sea otters, a favorite item of the great white shark's diet.
The abundance of otters and elephant seals in the area is thought to attract sharks, Miller said.