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This Woman Dangled Fish Off The Back Of A Boat. Then Suddenly A Shark Dragged Her Into The Water

Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Melissa Brunning was just 72 hours into her dream vacation when she was offered the chance to feed wild sharks. Brunning was naturally anxious about this at first, but after her friends had tried it without any problems, she stepped up to the plate herself. However, the vacationer got her technique completely wrong, and one of the animals caught hold of her finger. Then she felt herself being dragged towards the shark-infested waters…
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
As you might imagine, shark feeding is not usually part of Brunning’s day-to-day life. The 34-year-old actually works as a structural draftsperson in Perth, Australia. On her Instagram, though, she posts motivational slogans such as “Life is an adventure” and “Leave no stone unturned,” so perhaps it’s not too surprising that she was willing to take a risk.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
But how exactly did Brunning end up on a boat hand-feeding sharks? Well, in May 2018 she had traveled to Dugong Bay in Western Australia, some 1,578 miles north of Perth. It seems that the destination was, for the 34-year-old, part of a longed-for vacation in this far-removed region.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
As well as it being a beautiful part of the world, this is an area noted as a home to saltwater crocodiles and sharks. In fact, Dugong Bay had previously made headlines in 2012 when a woman was the victim of an attack by a croc measuring six and a half feet. The woman received a bite to the leg, but fortunately the wound wasn’t fatal.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
That said, shark attacks aren’t actually all that common in the area, and they were likely pretty far from Brunning’s mind when she was offered a trip on a buddy’s yacht. After all, who could refuse an offer like that? It’s not something that happens every day, right?
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
At some point in the cruise, however, the people on board discovered that a small group of tawny nurse sharks were crowding around the rear of the yacht. And this, it apparently occurred to Brunning’s companions, presented the perfect opportunity to hand-feed the wild animals from the comfort of their vessel.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Now, with hindsight, this might not sound like the greatest idea. But according to CNN, tawny nurse sharks are usually relatively peaceful. The media outlet does warn, however, that the sharks will strike in self-defense if they feel that they’re in danger. And with their extremely sharp teeth and strong jaws, that’s not something you want to happen.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Brunning was, then, understandably anxious about feeding the group of sharks by hand. However, she wasn’t the only person on board, and a number of her friends had a go first. Then when they had successfully fed the sharks without incident, Brunning stepped down to the back of the boat to give it a shot too.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Yet Brunning was still not as well prepared as she perhaps should have been. You see, when her friends had fed the sharks, they had seemingly put bits of fish in the water in front of them and observed as the sharks hoovered them up. However, this was, unfortunately, not the technique that Brunning chose to employ.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
No, Brunning decided to actually feed the sharks out of her own hands. And remember when we mentioned these sharks’ pointy teeth and sturdy jaws? Well, one of those sets of jaws is exactly what got hold of Brunning’s finger. What’s more, all of this happened, of course, as a friend recorded it on a cellphone.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
In the footage – which was later shared online – Brunning extends her fish-filled hand towards a shark, and the creature dutifully takes it down. Brunning then lets loose a terrified scream as the predator drags her closer to the water. It looks for a moment as if she is destined to follow the animal into the depths.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Brunning then stumbles and slips around on the back of the boat before she crashes into the water. Her head almost disappears beneath the waves. At that moment, though, the man stood beside her leaps into action. He grabs her under the arms and pulls her backwards. And at that point, the footage abruptly ends.
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Fortunately, Brunning did not end up getting dragged further into the water. She also didn’t suffer any fatal injuries. In July 2018 she told 7 News Sydney, “It happened so quickly. All I could really focus on was the fact that my finger is gone. [The shark] clamped on it, and it felt like it was shredding off the bone.”
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Image: YouTube/Storyful Rights Management
Brunning went on, “I came up, and I was like, ‘I’ve lost my finger.’ I couldn’t even look at the finger because I thought if I looked at it and saw it again, I’d probably go into shock.” Yet while Brunning didn’t actually lose her digit, she did suffer a pretty serious injury.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Not that Brunning apparently thought much of it at first. You see, instead of going straight to E.R., the 34-year-old decided to simply continue her vacation in the hope that the wound would heal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, it did not, and she visited a hospital upon her return to Perth.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
The medical professionals in Perth then took X-rays and discovered that Brunning’s sliced finger had a torn ligament and a fracture. In addition to this, the digit needed surgery to help rid the wound of a serious infection. She also had to follow a course of antibiotics.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Yet despite all this, Brunning has been quick to point out that there is no one to blame for this incident but herself. “This is not a shark attack,” she told Perth’s The Sunday Times in June 2018. “This is just a blonde doing a stupid thing. I’m not a shark victim.”
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
The 34-year-old added, “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.” So does the Australian have any advice for anybody else thinking of partaking in similar activities?
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Simply, Brunning urged people to “respect marine life and look at it in awe – but just leave them alone.” This is a warning that she will no doubt heed in future, too. But in spite of the shark episode, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the shark-bite victim.
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
Image: Instagram/mel_brunning
As Brunning told The Sunday Times, “It was an unforgettable trip. I’ve got a cool story, a cool injury, and I’ll have a cool little scar.” Saying that, she’s just happy that things didn’t turn out any worse. But just in case anybody missed the moral of this story, here it is again: don’t feed the sharks.

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