Rare attack by pair of sharks claims life of teenage surfer

The second fatal shark attack in Australia within a week claimed the life of an 18-year-old surfer off a popular Adelaide beach yesterday, in an area scientists are calling the predators' "Grand Central Station".

The second fatal shark attack in Australia within a week claimed the life of an 18-year-old surfer off a popular Adelaide beach yesterday, in an area scientists are calling the predators' "Grand Central Station".

Nick Petersen was surfing behind a speedboat at West Beach, in Adelaide's western suburbs, when he was attacked. Two of his friends saw a great white shark tear him in half after he fell off his board. A second shark then swam off with his remains.

An attack by two sharks is unusual behaviour for great whites, which are generally regarded as solitary hunters.

Last Saturday, 38-year-old Mark Thompson was killed by a shark while spearing fish on the Great Barrier Reef, off Cairns, theQueensland resort. Mr Thompson suffered massive leg wounds and died of a heart attack before paramedics could reach him for treatment.

One scientist was quoted yesterday as describing the waters off South Australia, of which Adelaide is the capital, as "brimming" with great whites. Barry Bruce, team leader of marine research at CSIRO, the government's scientific body, told The Australian newspaper: "If you go swimming in Grand Central Station for white sharks, then you have a higher chance of getting attacked."

Mr Bruce said great whites could cover huge distances in their search for prey. Researchers used satellite tracking to follow one great white as it travelled 6,000km from South Australia to central Queensland.

Great whites are the most feared predator in the ocean. The body of the latest victim, who was being towed behind a boat by three 16-year-old friends, has not been found. One of the sharks was thought to be about 5m long, while the other was about 4.5m. The attack happened about 200m offshore, on a hot day at a crowded beach.

A spokesman for the state Sea Rescue Squadron, Frasier Bell, said the teenagers had been in the water for half an hour. "They were just boys having a good time, the weather was perfect," he said. "He fell off the surfboard and the shark appeared and took him. It tore him apart."

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