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The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 were a series of shark attacks that occurred off the coast of New Jersey, United States between 1 July and 12 July 1916. These attacks killed four and left one injured.


Background of the Attacks


People visited the beaches of New Jersey in record numbers during the summer of 1916, due to the dual concerns of a deadly heat wave and a polio epidemic which affected the cities of Philadelphia and New York. The bathers worried about sharks, but, until the Jersey Shore shark attacks, scholars had believed that sharks did not attack living people in temperate waters without provocation.


The Attacks and Their Victims


Between 1 July and 12 July 1916, five people were attacked by sharks off the coast of New Jersey. The first such attack occurred on 1 July at Beach Haven, a resort town on Long Beach Island off the southern coast of New Jersey. The victim was Charles Epting Vansant of Philadelphia; he was 25 years of age. Lifeguard Alexander Ott rescued Vansant from the shark that began biting his legs as he swam. Vansant died on the manager’s desk of the Engleside Hotel at 6:45 pm.


The second attack occurred 45 miles (72.4 km) north of Beach Haven at the town of Spring Lake, New Jersey. The victim was 27-year-old Charles Bruder of Switzerland. He suffered a shark bite to the abdomen on 6 July 1916 while swimming 130 yards (119 m) from shore. Lifeguards Chris Anderson and George White rowed to Bruder in a lifeboat and pulled him from the water; he died en route to shore.


The final attacks occurred on Matawan Creek near the town of Matawan, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Spring Lake and 16 miles (26 km) inland, on 12 July 1916. At around 2:00 pm, local boys, including Lester Stillwell, age 11, were playing in the creek at an area known as Wyckoff dock when they saw an eight foot (2 m) shark in the water. The shark attacked Stillwell before he could emerge from the water.


The other boys went for help and local men, including 24-year-old Watson Stanley Fisher, came back with them. Fisher and the others dove into the creek to look for Stillwell’s body. Fisher was attacked and bled to death at Monmouth Memorial Hospital in Long Branch at 5:30 pm. Stillwell’s body was found 150 feet (46 m) upstream from the Wyckoff dock on 14 July 1916.


Joseph Dunn, 14, of New York City was the fifth and only surviving victim. He was attacked about a half mile from Wyckoff dock, about thirty minutes after Fisher and Stillwell were attacked. He suffered a shark bite to the left leg, and was taken to Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. He was released from hospital on 15 September 1916.




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