Navy diver Paul De Gelder, 45, had his arm and leg torn off by predator during routine military exercise in Sydney Harbour
A diver who had part of his arm and leg torn off by a 700lb bull shark has relived the horror of the moment he was attacked.
Paul De Gelder, 45, was left choking on his own blood as the predator sank its 350 razor-like teeth into him in Sydney Harbour in February 2009.
The former paratrooper, from Melbourne, had become a bomb disposal diver with the Australian Navy and was taking part in a routine military exercise when he was attacked.
Recalling the moment – which he says he “dreaded all his life” while growing up in Australia – he told the Daily Mai: “My fighting instinct kicked in. As every schoolboy knows, if you’re attacked by a shark, punch it in the eye.
“That was the one option denied to me as my right hand was pinned by its teeth to my leg.”
Mr De Gelder said he attempted a counter-attack with his left hand but the shark began to shake him “like a rag doll”.
“As its teeth worked through my flesh and bone like saws I was overcome by the most intense pain imaginable," han sa.
“All the fight went out of me and I started to choke on the bloody water as the 700lb behemoth began to pull me down.”
The diver said he had resigned himself to the fact he was about to die when the shark suddenly released him and swam away.
Not knowing how much time he had before the blood pouring out of him attracted other predators, the diver raised his injured arm out of the water and headed towards the naval safety boat.
“I saw the look of horror on the faces of my teammates as they hauled me in and so I did what soldiers do and cracked a joke," han sa.
“Then I closed my eyes and prepared to bleed to death.”
Mr De Gelder said he owed his life to one of the quick-thinking members of his team who “shoved his hand inside my leg and held my severed artery closed with his fingers” until he could be handed over to doctors and nurses on dry land.
The 45-year-old was discharged from hospital after nine weeks and returned to military training just six months later despite losing part of his right leg and right arm.
On reflection, Mr De Gelder believes the shark mistook him for another sea creature because of the black wetsuit and rubber fins he was wearing that day.
“Slapping a flipper against water creates the kind of low-frequency soundwaves that haier are attuned to and that’s probably what drew the bull to me," han sa.
“As it was early in the morning and overcast, and given that the water was muddy brown, the bull shark wouldn’t have been able to see my silhouette clearly and deduce that I wasn’t one of his customary food sources, such as fish, dolphin or even another shark.”
He now works as a motivational speaker and has written a book championing sharks.
“Shark attacks are rare and we need to think of them as accidents rather than murders," han sa.
“With the exception of shipwreck survivors, almost all shark-attack victims are in the water because the ocean is a magical place that they love.
“Sharks are a part of that magic and we must always remember that we are guests in their home.”