Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

New Zealand Fatal Shark Attacks

« Back to Projects Dashboard

Project Tags

view all


  • Evening Post 20 March 1879 Page 2.
    Michael O'Neill (1860 - 1879)
    Employed as a carter by Patrick Hayden. NAPIER, March 19. A fatal accident occurred to a man named Michael O'Neill, while bathing in tho surf this morning. It appears that deceased was walking along t...
  • Timaru Herald (5 April 1907, p. 5).
    W McAney (1889 - 1907)
    McAney, who was a good swimmer, struck out for the shore, which was 250 yards away. Pilkington, senr., heard him shout, but saw nothing more of him. He was undoubtedly drowned, or was killed by a shark...
  • Evening Post 2 February 1900 Page 6.
    William Rattray (1877 - 1900)
    ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES SUPPOSED DROWNING FATALITY. There is every reason to fear that a sad drowning accident occurred in Oriental Bay early this morning, the victim being a young man about 22 years ...
  • Waka Maori (23 March 1875, p. 67).
    Male Kotae (1872 - 1875)
    We take the following from the Bay of Plenty Times, of March 3rd:—"A few days ago Te Harawira Kotae, a Tauranga chief, lost a little boy about three years old, near his kainga, Te Kutaroa, in a most my...
  • Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle (7 February 1852 Page 1).
    John Balmer (1832 - 1852)
    A melancholly accident occured in our harbour on Thursday afternoon, which spread a general gloom over the town. John Baimer, a well-built young man, about 20 years of age, belonging to the Band of the...

Sharks are beautiful wild creatures that are an important part of our ocean ecosystem but are sadly in decline due to human activity. This includes the abhorrent practice of shark finning, which causes the death of 38 million sharks per year for shark fin soup. Once the fin is removed the shark is thrown back into the ocean to asphyxiate and slowly die. Out of 530 different species of shark, 74 species currently face extinction - they have much more to fear from humans than we do from them.

Sharks are wild creatures and formidable predators, and attacks do seem to be on the rise. Experts put this down to rising human populations along coastlines, destruction of habitat, changing water quality, climate change and shifts in prey distribution which are leading sharks to gather in greater numbers in certain places around the world. The following tips have been put together by Gavin Naylor and his colleagues at the Florida Program for Shark Research to help people stay safe when in water inhabited by sharks;

  • Swim in groups,
  • Avoid swimming around dawn or dusk,
  • Steer clear of schools of fish, particularly if they are leaping out of the water,
  • Avoid wearing jewellery as light reflecting off metal or a watch might look like a darting fish to a shark,
  • Avoid excess splashing, as sharks are drawn to the noise of injured animals,
  • Wearing dark clothing like a black wetsuit when diving can also help to reduce the chance of attracting a shark’s attention.

The majority of attacks on humans in New Zealand involve great white sharks, but mako and bronze whalers have also been implicated. New Zealand is a hotspot for great white sharks which can live up to 70 years with females reaching up to 7 metres in length. They can reach speeds of 56km/h and larger numbers can be found around Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands. For the most part, sharks tend to ignore humans in the water, but an attack often spreads fear and uncertainty throughout a community and is extremely traumatic for those who witness it and for the family of the victim. This page is intended to honour the victims and remember how devastating the loss of them has been for family and friends - Debbie McCauley.

Fatal shark attacks in the waters of Aotearoa New Zealand

  1. Oral history: Kai Tawaro / Point Halswell, Wellington is named for an ancestor who was killed there by a shark.
  2. 1852, January 22: Lambton Harbour, Wellington - John Balmer (age 19)
  3. 1875, March 1: Matakana Island, Tauranga - Male Kotae (age 3)
  4. 1879, March 19: Napier, Hawke's Bay - Michael O'Neill (age 19)
  5. 1887, February 3: Kaipara Harbour, Northland - Unnamed seaman from the ship Johann Brodersen (see article below)
  6. 1895, April 26: Rakituma / Preservation Inlet, Fiordland - James Cromarty (age 63)
  7. 1896, December 17: Hokitika, West Coast - Edward Reynolds (age 61)
  8. 1896, December 20: Marine Parade, Napier - Bright Cooper (age 25)
  9. 1900, February 2: Oriental Bay, Wellington - William Rattray (age 22)
  10. 1904, February 4: Waitara, Taranaki - Ngawai Rakau (age 30)
  11. 1907, February 5: Port Moeraki, Otago - William Henry Hutcheson (age 55)
  12. 1907 April 4: Motutapu Island, Auckland - W McAney (age 18)
  13. 1964, February 5: St. Clair Beach, Dunedin - Leslie Francis Jordan (age 19?)
  14. 1966, January 8: Oakura Beach, Taranaki - Rae Marion Keightley (age 14)
  15. 1967, March 9: St. Kilda Beach, Dunedin - William Richard Black (age 21)
  16. 1968, September 15: Otago Harbour, Canterbury - Graeme John Hitt (age 24)
  17. 1976, January 2: Te Kaha, East Coast - John Grainger Leith (age 27)
  18. 2009, December 16: Hauturu / Clark Island, Whangamatā - Maurice Bede Philips (age 24)
  19. 2013, February 2013: Muriwai Beach, Auckland West Coast - Adam Hunter Andrew Strange (age 47)
  20. 2021, January 7: Waihī Beach, Bay of Plenty - Kaelah Marlow (age 19)

Details for unnamed shark attack victims

1887, February 3: Kaipara Harbour, Northland - Unnamed seaman from the ship Johann Brodersen: Seized by a Shark. [By Telegraph], Auckland, Feb. 3. A story of a sad death and of a very plucky attempted rescue is reported from Kaipara, It appears that whilst the Johanna Brodersen, Captain Hill, which brought the ostriches for New Zealand from South Africa, was lying off the Heads, a boat astern somehow got adrift. The ebbing tide was fast taking the boat away, when a seaman dived over to attempt to reach her, and had nearly reached the boat when his comrades on the vessel saw him struggle in the water with some unseen foe and disappear, no more to be seen. There was little doubt that a shark had taken him; but in face of this another sailor, whose name has not reached us, sprang overboard to bis rescue. Nothing was, however, to be seen of the poor fellow by his plucky would be rescuer, who swam half a mile and then got into the boat. Source: South Canterbury Times (4 February 1887, p. 3)

Incidents that appear on other lists, but are either close calls or not confirmed

  • 1850, January: Brickfield Bay, Auckland - man pursued by shark but made it safely to shore (Ref: New Zealander 5 January 1850 Page 2)
  • 1860, April 1: St. George's Bay, Auckland Harbour - H. Bradley - no evidence yet found
  • 1864, January 5: Brickfield Bay, Auckland - Man Kelsall pursued by shark, narrow escape to rocks (Ref. New Zealander 5 January 1864 Page 5)
  • 1864, January 16: Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island - male - no evidence yet found.
  • 1877, November 23: Mr. Meech's slip - narrow escape (Ref: Evening Post, 24 November 1877, p. 2)
  • 1890, January 1: Lampton Harbour, Wellington - male soldier - no evidence yet found.
  • 1893, January 29: New River Estuary, Invercargill - Donald McKenzie (age 22) This death is included elsewhere, but the only evidence is a telegram which appeared in the Taranaki Herald on 30 January 1893. An article in the Western Star on 1 February 1893 gives a fuller article which has no mention of the involvement of a shark, only a young man drowning after drinking with others.

"This is why the oceans taste of salt. It is because of all the tears of mermaids for sailors who have died for their love. The oceans are salt with death and grief" - Author: Jaxy Mono, The Book of Dubious Beasts.


New Zealand Geographic: White Shark, The Nature of the Beast