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Shark Attacks Helicopter!


Netlore Archive: Viral image purports to show a great white shark lunging out of the water to attack a scuba diver dangling from a helicopter ladder.

Description: Viral image / Hoax
Circulating since: Aug. 2001
Status: Fake (see details below)

Email contributed by C. Ellis, Aug. 8, 2002:


Although this looks like a picture taken from a Hollywood movie, it is in fact a real photo, taken near the South African coast during a military exercise by the British Navy.

It has been nominated by Geo as "THE photo of the year".

Shark attack. And you think you're having a bad day at work !!
Click to Enlarge

Analysis: Anyone who has ever visited San Francisco (or even seen postcard pictures of the place) knows this "real" photo couldn't possibly have been taken off the South African coast. That's the Golden Gate Bridge in the background!

The image is unquestionably a fake, albeit a very good one. It's a composite of a U.S. Air Force photo (inverted) of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a rescue diver training session in San Francisco Bay and a still shot of a great white shark breaching the ocean surface by acclaimed underwater photographer Charles Maxwell.

Shark attacks helicopter
Detail (original size)

Maxwell says the shark image came from footage shot in False Bay near Cape Town, South Africa.

The anonymous cut-and-paste job first began circulating in August 2001, when sharks and shark attacks were very much in the news because of the widely publicized mauling of eight-year-old Jessie Arbogast off Pensacola Beach, Florida. The 2002 variant featured here, circulating as a Word document with fabricated (and misspelled) caption, appeared precisely one year later.

Further reading:

Shark Hoax: Source Photos w/Credits
View the original photographs used to create the hoax image

2001: Summer of the Shark
From Time

Sneaky Shark (Photo)
Netlore Archive, 20 September 2007

Are Vending Machines Deadlier than Sharks?
Urban Legends Blog, 29 June 2005

Last updated: 02/04/10

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