You may remember the story from Shelley Beach in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia in which a woman was attacked by a 10 foot juvenile great white shark. Her name is Chantelle Doyle and she suffered extensive injuries to one of her legs. Her husband who was nearby jumped on top of the shark and punched it eight times on the head and in the eye. The shark released his wife. The news went viral because of the husband’s heroic behaviour. He jeopardised his life to save the life of his wife.
Today, in The Times Chantelle Doyle describes her experience in some detail. When she was first bitten she thought, “What the hell”. She believed the shark was going to kill her until her husband intervened. He’s Mark Rapley. His wife has not adopted his surname incidentally. Unless they’re not married! The press is rather vague on this point.
Incidentally, Mark Rapley says that when he punched the shark it was like hitting “a brick wall”. Chantelle said that, “I suddenly saw Mark jump into the water next to me. And I just went ‘what the hell are you doing?'”
She says that the shark adjusted its grip on her leg. She remembers the jaws readjust like it needed to find a new grip and then readjust again. It felt like a vice around her leg, a crushing sensation, she said. She shouted out, “Shark! Shark!”.
She felt that she was on her own initially until Mark arrived. She wasn’t sure whether she would survive and thought that it may be her last moments.
Mark said, “It was just a flurry of punches. You are not focused on how you are doing it”. On the beach, horrified onlookers had called an ambulance and an off-duty nurse used a leg rope from a surfboard as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from Chantelle’s leg. She had lost all feeling in it and said, “It felt my leg had turned into a bag of concrete”.
She was airlifted to hospital and has undergone a lot of treatment including skin grafts. There will be further skin grafts this week. With Mark she wants to promote conservation. She is still committed to it despite the attack. She said that what they have in Australia in terms of wildlife is slipping away and people should stand up for it and fight for it.
Chantelle Doyle is completing a doctorate. She is a botanist. Mark Rapley is a finance executive. They have a three year old son, Hamilton.
Chantelle says that her leg looks like a roadmap but the medics are putting it back together again. She admits that she may never regain full use of her limb and full sensations. There’s been nerve damage. Nerves do regrow, and she says that they grow a millimetre a day so perhaps after 400 days her nerves may regrow down to her toes
It is a concern that there have been five fatal shark attacks in 2020 in Australia which is far more than the average of one or two annually.