Melissa Brunning was on a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip cruising the majestic Kimberley on a friend’s superyacht, so when an opportunity arose to feed a placid shark she was scared, but her adventurous spirit willed her to give it a go.
But it all ended in a freak shark bite incident that left the Perth woman grateful she didn’t lose a finger.
The last of her friends to try feeding the three to four Tawny nurse sharks hanging around the back of the boat, what Ms Brunning didn’t realise until it was too late was that she shouldn’t hand feed the 2m shark, rather place the piece of fish in front of her and watch it go by and suck it up.
With a suction “like a Hoover”, the shark sucked Ms Brunning’s right index finger into its mouth full of rows of razor sharp teeth.
Mobile phone footage filmed by a friend of the incident at the end of May shows Ms Brunning screaming as she’s pulled from the back of the boat into the croc-infested water as the shark swims off.
“I think the shark was in shock as much as I was ... the only way I can describe it is this immense pressure and it felt like it was shredding it off the bone,” the 34-year-old structural draftsperson said. “I came up and I was like, ‘I’ve lost my finger, my finger’s gone’.”
Her friends and the boat’s crew sprung into action and calmed her by telling her finger was still in tact, just injured.
As it was only day three of her dream two-week holiday in remote WA, Ms Brunning decided to carry on, hoping her finger would heal by itself.
But when she returned, she went straight to the doctors and X-rays revealed her badly infected finger had a fracture and torn ligament. Surgery followed to try to flush out the infection, and Ms Brunning remains on antibiotics.
But Ms Brunning considers herself lucky and wants people to know that the shark bite incident was “completely my fault”. “It’s not the shark’s fault at all, but it could have been a lot worse,” she said.
“This is not a shark attack, this is just a blonde doing a stupid thing.
“I’m not a shark victim .. I have full respect for sharks, I think they’re incredible. I’ve always had the opinion that when you’re in the water, they’re top of the food chain, it’s their domain.
“We’re not meant to be in the water, if we were we’d have gills.”
Ms Brunning said the lesson she’s learnt is to “respect marine life, and look at it in awe, but just leave them alone.”
Even though she’s still recovering, Ms Brunning said her brush with the inside of a shark’s mouth didn’t stop her from enjoying her holiday.
“It was an unforgettable trip, I’ve got a cool story, a cool injury and I’ll have a cool little scar, but I’m just grateful that it wasn’t worse than what it was,” she said.
This article originally appeared on PerthNow