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Great white shark scavenging whale carcass.

Black December refers to at least nine shark attacks on humans causing six deaths that occurred along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, from December 18, 1957 to April 5, 1958.[1]


Perfect stormEdit

In December 1957 several key factors occurred simultaneously to attract sharks to the Durban area, including: (1) whaling ships operating in the area; (2) rivers had flooded and washed livestock into the Indian Ocean and made the river deltas murky; and (3) recent resort development had increased the number of tourists swimming off the beaches.[2] Adding to the confusion was the lack of adequate shark research and the knowledge to prevent shark attacks in 1957.[2]

Attack victimsEdit

Name Age Date Species Location Comments Ref.
Fay Jones Bester 28 1958-04-05 Unknown Uvongo Fatal attack, while surfing. [3][4]
Nicholaas Badenhorst 29 1958-04-03 Unknown Port Edward Fatal attack, arm severed above elbow, abdomen & leg bitten, while swimming. [3][5]
Derryck Garth Prinsloo 42 1958-01-04 Great white shark Scottburgh Fatal attack, mauled below waist, femoral artery severed, while standing. [3][6]
Zulu male -- 1958 Unknown MaKakatana River Fatal attack, right leg severed above knee, while fishing. [3][7]
Julia Painting 14 1957-12-30 Unknown Margate Non-fatal attack, left arm severed, torso bitten, thigh lacerated, many abrasions, while standing. [3][8]
Donald Webster 20 1957-12-26 Unknown Port Edward Non-fatal attack, lacerations on head and neck, while skindiving. [3][9]
Vernon James Berry 23 1957-12-23 Unknown Margate Fatal attack, right arm broken & stripped of flesh, left hand severed above wrist, lower abdomen, buttocks, & thigh bitten, while floating. [3][10]
Allan Green 15 1957-12-20 Unknown Uvongo Fatal attack, multiple severe injuries, while standing. [3][11]
Robert Wherley 16 1957-12-18 Unknown Karridene Non-fatal attack, left leg severed at knee, part of left thigh removed, while body surfing. [3][12]

Attempted solutionsEdit

Tourists fled the Durban area during Black December causing a devastating impact on the local economy.[13] The local authorities desperately made attempts to protect swimmers and surfers from sharks.[1] These attempts included enclosures built from wooden poles and netting; however, both were ineffective and were destroyed by the surf.[1] A South African Navy frigate dropped depth charges causing few shark fatalities and attracted many more sharks into the area that feasted on the dead fish.[1]

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks BoardEdit

As a result of Black December the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, previously the Natal Sharks Board and Natal Anti-Shark Measures Board, was formed in 1962.[14][15][16] The organization's mandate is to maintain shark nets and drum lines at 38 places, along 320 km of coastline of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, to protect bathers and surfers from possible shark attacks.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "South Africa Rethinks Use of Shark Nets". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Killer Sharks: The Attacks of Black December". 2 August 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2017 – via IMDb.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i surfer. "The complete South African Shark Attack Related Incident Record". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  4. ^ fish. "shark attack in Uvongo in 1958". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  5. ^ fish. "shark attack in Port Edward in 1958". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  6. ^ fish. "shark attack in Scottburgh in 1958". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  7. ^ fish. "shark attack in MaKakatana River in 1958". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  8. ^ fish. "shark attack in Margate in 1957". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  9. ^ fish. "shark attack in Splash Rock Port Edward in 1957". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  10. ^ fish. "shark attack in Margate in 1957". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  11. ^ fish. "shark attack in Uvongo in 1957". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  12. ^ fish. "shark attack in Karridene in 1957". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  13. ^ Gulf News: Keeping great whites at bay
  14. ^ a b "History of protection against shark attack in KZN". KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. Archived from the original on 12 April 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  15. ^ "An overview of the KZN Sharks Board". KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  16. ^ Africa Geographic: Shark nets - the real killers of the sea? Archived May 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine