Location: Campbell Island, New Zealand
Date: April 24, 1992
On Campbell Island, 450 miles south of New Zealand, only five people live where the weather station is at. On the afternoon of April 24th, 1992, 32-year-old Mike Fraser and his friends and coworkers; first-aid specialist Linda Danen, communications specialist Robin Humphrey, conservation ranger Jacinda Amey, and mechanic Gus McCallister, decided to stop work early to go snorkeling on the west side of the island which was about an hour and a half walk from the base. "Campbell Island is a really wild place with no contact on the outside world, apart from our radio telephone. We didn't expect to see another ship or even a plane for a whole time down here, for 12 months," Jacinda stated.
As the group prepared to go snorkeling together for the first time, despite being on the island together for five and a half months, Linda, Robin, Gus, and Jacinda were snorkeling close together and having fun while Mike moved further away to check out the ocean floor and get his exercise. But he didn't know that a great white shark was coming at him. Then it bit down on his right arm and attacked him. As the others heard his screams, they saw the shark attacking him. While they retreated back to the island, Jacinda stayed behind as she watched in horror as Mike was struggling against the shark. "I knew that I should've gone to the shore. But I felt his pain and his terror, it was--it was really awful--It was unbelievable to see that happen in front of you," Jacinda sadly stated.
As Jacinda saw blood pooling down the ocean and Mike disappearing, she yelled down to him, frantically calling out his name. Then he came up. As he was struggling to swim, Jacinda hurried over to him and began dragging him back to shore, despite that the shark was still out there. While the others directed her to the raised, rocky part of the shore to get him away from the shark, they got him to safety and saw that his right arm was missing just below the elbow. They also saw that his left arm was shredded due to his struggle against the shark and he was having trouble breathing.
Knowing that they were medically ill-equipped to cope with Mike's injury, Robin pulled a strap from his mask and put it over Mike's right arm to use as a tourniquet to contain the blood loss. "You're talking about a 36-hour boat trip to get him off the island. You can't get a small airplane since there is nowhere for it to land and I thought this guy was not going to make it. I'm pretty sure he was going to die here," Robin stated.
While Linda went to the nearby hut for first aid supplies, Robin sent Gus, who is the fastest member of the group, to run back to the base camp to radio for help. As Robin and Jacinda treated Mike, they tried to keep him from seeing his right arm. But he said that he already knew it was gone and already accepted it in that stage.
When Linda returned with the first aid supplies, the first she did was remove the strap from Mike's arm and place bandages on where it was amputated to prevent further blood loss. She and Robin then placed a snorkel on his left arm and wrapped bandages on it as a split. After seeing he was cold and in a severe state of shock, Robin thought they could take him to the nearest hut to shelter him from the cold. But after carrying him on the stretcher, they saw that he was bleeding and in extreme pain. Robin then ran to the hut to get the tent and whatever supplies to keep Mike comfortable and warm from the outside cold temperature since they knew they were in for a long night.
Meanwhile, Gus managed to run five miles to make it back to the base camp within 45 minutes and radioed for help. In their emergency plan, anyone injured on Campbell Island is to evacuated by helicopter more than 450 miles to the nearest hospital. But it was never done before. Helicopter pilot John Funnell, who was already working for 12 hours, got the call and headed there with paramedic Pat Wynn, who volunteered despite the risks.
As time passed, Mike's condition continue to deteriorate as everyone still worked to give him a lot of comfort, but were concerned that he may not have the strength to last the length of time waithing for the helicopter to arrive. From the recommendations from the doctor on the radio, Gus brought back painkillers and antibiotics. But there was no stockpile of blood on the island.
As Wynn helped refuel the helicopter in mid-air, it was in range on Campbell Island, but there was a heavy cloud cover in the area. They made contact on the research ship that had come to try to help. After hovering around the clouds for some time, the crew of the ship fired a flare to point them where the island was. As Wynn got out of the helicopter and went to the tent, he found that Mike was blue from lack of oxygen and learned that they couldn't get a blood pressure, which meant his kidneys were starting to fail. Wynn had Funnell take Mike to the base camp to get him in stable condition before they can transport him to the hospital. Linda and Wynn then worked to stabilize him for transport. Wynn states, "I just couldn't believe that a shark can do so much damage to one person."
Once they stabilized Mike within 3 hours, they loaded him in the helicopter within sunrise as all his friends looked on, exhausted and worried. He was taken to the nearest hospital. Somehow, doctors miraculously were able to save his damaged left arm.
Two years later, Mike has adjusted to the loss of his right arm and he slowly continues to regain the use of his left one with physical therapy. He now has two prosthetic arms, one for lighter work such as computer work and the other one used for heavy duty, like trimming down trees and such.
Wynn praised Mike's survival on his coworkers for their excellent teamwork. "There were so many people involved. I just so extremely grateful to everyone. There a case of good luck, good planning, and just everything came off. But I'm just extremely grateful to everyone involved," Mike stated.
Since the incident, Mike and Linda have grown closer to each other. "Mike and I have become an item. We started to see each other quite a lot through last year. We fell in love with each other and I thought this was a way to go and now we are together. I'm looking forward to a long life together," Linda stated.