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Divers survive six hours on shark-infested reef

19th September 2005

Australian police are to launch an investigation after two British divers endured six hours floating in shark-infested waters off the Great Barrier Reef when they were dragged more than five nautical miles from their boat by treacherous currents.

Coastguards described how the novice divers, Louise Woodger, 29, and Gordon Pratley, 31, had been "freakishly lucky" after surviving their ordeal in an area known "for having some very large sharks".

They had been shocked to discover upon surfacing that their dive boat was nowhere to be seen. They inflated their buoyancy vests and clung together, battling with rough seas. As they tried to conserve their energy, the pair spotted a shark as it circled below them and "decided not to look down any more".  They held on to two orange "safety sausages" which helped the boat skipper to spot them from a distance.

Australian authorities have introduced tougher regulations since an American couple, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, disappeared after being left stranded by their dive boat in 1998. Their crew did not report them missing for two days. The incident sparked a crisis in the Queensland diving industry. The skipper of the Lonergans' dive boat, Jack Nairn, was found not guilty of manslaughter. The Lonergans' deaths were used as the basis for the film Open Water.

Speakers Corner have a number of speakers who have amazing stories of survival, a few of these are featured on our website such as Joe Simpson, Chris Ryan, John Peters and Phil Ashby.

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