On October 14th, 1889, three boys came across an unusual sight while rowing their boat between Bradleys Head and Clark Island in Sydney Harbour. They observed splashing out in the distance, a stark disturbance to the still morning waters. As curious boys are expected to do, they rowed over to investigate. Within fifty yards, it became apparent they had rowed into a pack of large sharks engaged in a feeding frenzy—a feeding frenzy on human flesh. The boys managed to identify the meal as a human female body. This terrified the boys; however, what disturbed them even more was it appeared the sharks were playing with the corpse. One shark would dive beneath the body and dart back to the surface, thrusting it into the air; another would flip the body over and repeat the same action. The boys attempted to get closer, hoping to scare the sharks away, but this proved silly, as they darted towards them and violently nudged their boat. Then, one shark, twelve feet in length, torpedoed past the floating body and ripped an arm clean off. The boys retreated in fear. On the way to shore, they waved the attention of a passing steamer and directed it to the pack. 

The steamer approached the frenzied shark and lowered one of its boats with a small crew to try and retrieve the body. Again, the attempt was futile, as the sharks began to attack their boat and prevent them from getting closer. They returned to the steamer and, when back at shore, notified the Water Police. The Water Police arrived at the scene and were also greeted by the blood-crazed man-eaters. They, too, were rushed by the sharks, but the police used their oars to bludgeon the creatures back, and after a significant struggle, the police managed to drive the sharks away. They succeeded in removing the mutilated corpse from the harbour and took it to the North Sydney Mortuary in Circular Quay. 

Brightside (1865-1908)

The Coroner identified the body as Miss Mary Fahey. Mary had been sailing with a party of twenty-one friends on a yacht, Irene, they hired for Labour Day (October 7th). While between Bradlys Head and Shark Island, the yacht was hit by a sudden storm that caused the vessel to capsize. Many of the passengers, including Mary, fell into the water. A passing ferry on its way to Manly, the Brightside, along with the yacht, Edith, witnessed the accident and pulled up to rescue the passengers struggling in the rough waters. They managed to rescue several of them; however, one of the women, Miss Nellie Thompson, was pronounced dead, and five people were still missing, Mary being one of them. 

The following day, the body of Ada Gilbert was found floating in Woolloomoo Bay. Seven days later, Mary Fahey was discovered, and on the 16th of October, the final victim to be found, Mary Louise Stewart, was floating near the shoreline of Bradleys Head. The final two missing passengers, Kate Thompson and Horace Kippax, were never seen again. 

The tragic accident resulted in a total of six fatalities, the news devastating the colonies. An inquest into the accident revealed the conditions on the day to have been much too rough for the Irene to handle with so many people on board. When the heavy storm came in from the southwest, a gust of wind caused the fouling of the main sheet, leading to the rope catching in the cleat. This resulted in the immediate capsizing, the centreboard being ripped off, and the boat turning keel up. The heroic crew of the Edith, attempted to calm those clinging to the submerged boat, though another heavy storm followed that resulted in a panic. It is believed that those whose lives were lost succumbed from the scramble of some of the young men to climb up one side of the capsized boat. The crew of the Edith threatened to beat the young men with their oars if they continued to climb, but the threat had no effect; the men kept climbing, driven by panic, causing the boat to flip under their weight, casting those clinging to the opposite side into the violent swell before sinking into the dark foaming abyss. 

Witnesses stated that the conditions were not suitable for sailing, with one saying that he had forbidden his son, a somewhat experienced young yachtsman, from going out that day. A jury returned a verdict of accidental death, though commented that “the members of the party acted injudiciously in venturing out in the boat in such weather.” The Corner agreed, though also added, “the charm was in the danger and that this was the characteristic of the British race.”

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