JAWS OF DEATH: Townsville’s shocking history of fatal shark attacks
THERE was a time when Townsville ranked as one of the most dangerous spots in Australia, if not the world, for fatal shark attacks.
From the grisly death of 17-year-old William Williams in Ross Creek in 1907, to the horrific fatal attack of Arthur Kenealey, 42, at Kissing Point in 1951, the waters around Townsville have been rife with tales of shark attacks since its early days of settlement.
Kenealey's death is the last recorded fatal attack in waters directly in and around Townsville, although there have been fatal attacks in offshore waters since, including the deaths of Dennis Murphy, 24, and Linda Horton, 21, at Lodestone Reef across July 25-26, 1983.
Mr Murphy, a deckhand from Brisbane, and Miss Horton, a cook from Townsville, were on a shrimp boat when it sank in heavy seas.
The pair clung to the wreckage with skipper Ray Boundy about 90km east of Townsville for a day and a half.
What happened next is the stuff of nightmares.
Mr Murphy was attacked by what Mr Boundy later guessed was a 5m tiger shark, with Mr Murphy yelling "the bastard has got my leg".
In an act of selfless bravery Mr Murphy later swam away from the boat. During the night, Mr Boundy saw Mr Murphy lifted out of the water in a pair of huge jaws and pulled beneath the surface.
Two hours later the shark returned and, in one lunge, grabbed Miss Horton by the chest and arm.
Mr Boundy was later rescued by helicopter after swimming to a nearby reef, and was treated for his shark bites at Townsville Hospital.
Miss Horton's father, Bill, later said his wife had dreamed of her daughter being washed overboard from a fishing boat.
"It was a quick flash on Sunday night. We didn't even know there was a search going on for them until 10pm on Monday night," he said.
"Linda was superstitious and didn't want to leave port on Friday because the wind was blowing. She thought it was rough and said to her mother she did not want to go, but she had that look on her face."
From 1907 to 1951 there were 15 fatal shark attacks in Townsville waters, according to available records, and another was recorded near Palm Island in 1926.
Most were in Ross Creek, starting with William Williams in February 1907.
William had been swimming with a group of friends when they all spotted a shark fin moving towards them.
Then in a flash they all saw splashing where William had been, and soon after all that remained of the 17-year-old was a big pool of bloodied water.
William disappeared without making a sound.
Five days later a resident spotted two legs in the river, and a post-mortem examination revealed the shark had bitten clean through William's abdomen and spine.
Another young man, Samuel Tristing, was killed by a shark on January 1, 1912, while swimming with a companion in Ross Creek.
When attacked he screamed out in desperation for help which never came.
His body was found two hours later, disembowelled and with both arms missing.
Three fatal shark attacks occurred off Townsville during World War I, the victims being Alexander Poultney, Walter Gregson and Joseph Bartlett.
Poultney and Gregson were killed within a day of each other in November 1916; Poultney died while swimming after a day of military training, and Gregson met his grisly fate swimming near the Seaview Hotel after having his legs ripped off.
Bartlett was attacked while reportedly swimming in 1m of water off The Strand, and even though a friend came to his aid, Bartlett succumbed to blood loss.
What was supposed to be a day of crabbing turned into a traumatic death for Jack Hoey, 38, who was attacked by a shark in Ross River on January 5, 1919.
The father of six waded into the water for a swim when he was attacked, with a huge shark grabbing him by a leg.
One of Hoey's friends dragged him from the water and his leg was amputated in hospital, but Hoey died the next day.
The list of shocking attacks goes on.
Robert Milroy was mauled by sharks on January 15, 1922, while prawning in the Ross River.
O January 27, 1929, Harry Weatherall, 18, died after both his arms were severed in a shark attack at Alma Bay.
Edward Hobbs, 42, fell off a wharf into Ross Creek on September 1, 1929, and was attacked straight away by a shark which ripped both his legs off.
Two men in a nearby rowboat went to his aid, but Hobbs died just a few minutes later.
On March 22, 1931, Arthur Tomida, 19, died after having his left thigh severely bitten while fishing with a cast net at Ross River.
There were two more fatal attacks in the 1930s - one off Kissing Point and the other in Ross River - and then the record goes quiet until October 21, 1951.
Albert Arthur James Kenealey was swimming at Kissing Point baths about 7pm when he was attacked by what was thought to be a huge tiger shark.
His right leg was torn off at the thigh and evidence suggested the shark had made more than one attack.
Mr Kenealey had gone to the baths with Mr and Mrs Hinspeter of Bell Street, South Townsville, and their four children.
Mrs Hinspeter had left the water a few minutes before with two of the children, and her husband was in shallow water with the other two preparing to leave.
Mr Kenealey - who was standing with Mr Hinspeter - said he was going out for a final swim and then dived in and swam out about 14 metres to a fence around the enclosure.
Mr Hinspeter said he saw Mr Kenealey swing on the wire at the back of the baths as if resting.
"Suddenly I heard Kenealey yell out and I saw a swirl of foam rising on the water," he said.
He said Mr Kenealey then let go of the wire and disappeared.
Mr Hinspeter raised the alarm and police and ambulance officers rushed to the scene, discovering Mr Kenealey's body lying on the beach about 20 metres on the southern side of the baths, and about 35 metres from where he was attacked.
He was dead when a police officer picked him up.
Investigations later indicated that some of the wire netting was corroded and missing from the swimming enclosure.
Since then there have been no recorded fatal attacks in waters in or around Townsville, although a number of swimmers have been injured.
Whether it be better safety precautions from swimmers and boaties, increased shark baiting measures or higher volume of shipping traffic, no one can be really sure why Townsville's horror run of fatal attacks ended 70 years ago, or why there was an explosion of attacks to begin with.
But stories of Townsville's horrific spate of attacks will surely remain part of local folklore for many years to come.
RECORDED FATAL SHARK ATTACKS IN TOWNSVILLE
Feb, 1907 - William Williams. 17 yearold. Ross Creek. Attacked while swimming in Ross Creek with friends.
1 Jan, 1912 - Samuel Tristing: young man. Fatal attack while swimming in Ross Creek, Townsville. His body was recovered two hours later
9 Nov, 1916 - Alexander Poultney: Member of the defence force fatally attacked when swimming following a day of training. tHE sTRAND.
10 Nov, 1916 - Walter Gregson: Fatal attack while swimming in Townsville near the Seaview Hotel, had his leg ripped off and died from his wounds
19 Sep, 1918 - Joseph Bartlett, 22: Fatal attack while bathing in 1m of water in Townsville. Saved by a mate, he was taken to hospital but later died. The Strand.
5 Jan, 1919 - Jack Hoey, 38: Fatal, died in hospital after his leg was amputated following attack in the Ross River while shrimping
15 Jan, 1922 - Robert Milroy, 54: Fatal attack when a pool of sharks converged on him when he went prawning in the Ross River
2 Dec, 1926 - Norman Skeen: Fatal attack while diving for trochus at Palm Island
27 Jan, 1929 - Harry Weatherall, 18: Fatal attack at Alma Bay, Magnetic Island. Both arms severed and were surgically amputated but he later died
1 Sep, 1929 - Edward William Hobbs, 42: Fatal attack in the Ross River, Townsville when he fell from the wharf and into the water
3 Dec, 1929 (Reported) - Unnamed male in his 50s: Fatal attack off the coast of Townsville
22 Mar, 1931 - Arthur Tomida, 19: Fatal attack, left thigh severely bitten while fishing a cast net at Ross River, Townsville
4 Jan, 1933 - Stanley Locksley, 38: Fatal attack, abdominal wounds while swimming at Strand Beach, Kissing Point
15 May, 1937 - William Tennant, 33: Fatal attack, after refused permission to cross on the ferry he tried to swim across the Ross River, Townsville
22 Oct, 1951 - Arthur Kenealey, 42: Fatal attack, leg severed, dragged through hole in protective net when swimming at Ocean Baths, Kissing Point
25 Jul, 1983 - Dennis Murphy, 24: Fatal, 5m tiger shark dragged him underwater while swimming from the capsized New Venture off Lodestone Reef
26 Jul, 1983 - Linda Horton, 21: Fatal, 5m tiger shark and took her underwater while swimming from the capsized New Venture off Lodestone Reef
Originally published as JAWS OF DEATH: Townsville's shocking history of fatal shark attacks