Seal bites six scuba divers – cause unknown

Seal off Cape Town (Tim Sheerman-Chase)
Seal off Cape Town (Tim Sheerman-Chase)

An unusual incident occurred off South Africa’s Atlantic coast on the morning of Saturday, 2 March when a Cape fur seal ran riot among a group of scuba divers.

A dive charter RIB carrying eight divers and four crew had arrived at a site off the Oudekraal nature reserve near Cape Town, and the group had just entered the sea when the seal swam among them and started biting. Six of the eight divers had been attacked by the time the crew had been able to recover them and raise the alarm.

The ER24 ambulance service alerted City of Cape Town (CoCT) Water Rescue Network that the RIB was heading towards Oceana Power Boat Club in Oudekraal with injured divers in need of medical care.

Two National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) stations and ambulances stood by while paramedics assessed the divers’ condition, though in only two cases had they sustained bite puncture wounds. A Portuguese woman required hospitalisation and was later reported to be in a stable condition, while a South African woman was able to be treated on the spot.

Four other divers, Brazilian and South African men and a French man and woman, had escaped with “minor scrape bite wounds”, while a German man and South African woman had been unscathed. All those affected were advised to attend hospital for precautionary broad spectrum antibiotics, rabies and tetanus shots.

NSRI and CoCT appealed to divers and bathers near Oudekraal and along the Atlantic seaboard to be cautious in light of the incident.

The former organisation, which was initially inspired by the UK’s RNLI, said that the cause of the seal’s behaviour had raised questions, because the pinnipeds are not usually aggressive toward humans.

It commended the dive-boat skipper and crew for their speed in recovering the divers and alerting the emergency services.

Also on Divernet: Above 18m: Farnes diving gets seal of approval, Seals welcome divers to the Farnes, Scuba diving with grey seals at Lundy Island, Elephant seals dive asleep

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