Barry Bethune

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YOB: 1940
Experience: Commercial Fisherman, Recreational Fisherman
Regions: Catlins
Interview Location: Kaka Point, NZ
Interview Date: 17 February 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Barry Bethune and Steve Crawford

5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS

CRAWFORD: What is the first time you remember hearing about, or seeing, White Pointers? 

BETHUNE: I would hear the old man talking about them. 

CRAWFORD: What did he say? 

BETHUNE: Sounds like it used to be a popular bloody fishing spot, off the rocks in those days. Most of the miners down there, they all make cribs in the Tautuku Peninsula, and they’re there on a regular basis. As a kid, I can remember Dad had a photograph of a White Pointer on the beach. He actually had a tooth out of this particular one, out of the second row of bloody teeth, and I’ve lost track of it. It was around home, up until a few years ago. I don’t know where it got to. This particular bloody day, they all went down for the weekend, and in those days, a couple of commercial boats worked out of there. It was a great spot for catching bloody Flounder and Sole in the surf, just with a drag net. They went down there on the Friday night, and just got into the water and the old fisherman came out, "Get out of there young man! Bastards! A couple of White Pointers are bloody in there." And what was happening, they were handlining Groper, and these two sharks were following right into the backwater. Well, not backwater, they came in behind them, the tide went out, and the boats were sitting high and dry, sorta thing. And they used to clean their Groper on the rocks. Right at the so-called anchorage. These big buggers were coming in and picking up the Groper heads every day. 

CRAWFORD: Did you see them? 

BETHUNE: I don’t know. I was only bit of a kid then. Anyhow, they pulled out of it. The next day, when the boats came home, they saw these two fish follow the boats in. Being coal miners as well, "We’ll fix these buggers next weekend." And they had access to explosives. [laughs]. So what happens was, they’re down there the next weekend when the boats come home. Sure enough these two buggers turned up, and they had a Groper head with dynamite in it, chucked it in, and one of the sharks made a lunge at it. They were a bit trigger-happy, and it went off before it got into its mouth, and it lifted him out of the bloody water. So the fish turned out, and went back out. They followed the fin around the bloody bay. It turned around and came back, and they had done the same thing again. As soon as the Groper head hit the water, well she flew at it - must have been a female because it’s a big fish. She flew at it, and it blew the head off of it. And the photograph - I lost track of it as well - it was 15 to 20 men around it when it was on the beach, and they couldn’t drag it up the beach. It was a big animal. 

CRAWFORD: And you were a kid when this happened?

BETHUNE: No. It was before my time, I think. 

CRAWFORD: It was either in your very earliest of days or before, so maybe the 30s? 

BETHUNE: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: There are a couple of things in the story that are important. It was very clear that these animals were responding to the rock where these guys were cleaning their fish, or were following boats which had already being cleaning fish. Was there any indication that the sharks were following the boats? 

BETHUNE: Yeah, they followed the boats in every day apparently. 

CRAWFORD: Was it typical that those boats - when they were coming back in - they’d be cleaning on the way? 

BETHUNE: Oh yeah, for sure. 

CRAWFORD: You also mentioned that there were at least a couple of White Pointers sometimes? 

BETHUNE: Yep.

CRAWFORD: Sid you get the sense that those fish were swimming around together? Or did they just all seem to be attracted to the same thing?

BETHUNE: That’s more than I could tell you. But there were occasions at about the same time - before they actually blew that one up. There was one old guy, lived in the bush here, and he only had a rowboat. And the commercial boats used to tow him out round to the point of the peninsula because he had no outboard in those days. They would tow him out there and leave him there, and then pick him up on the way home. 

CRAWFORD: Which peninsula?

BETHUNE: Tautuku. Pick him up, rather than him having to row back. So anyhow, this particular day, they came back to the peninsula and he wasn’t there. And they thought "He must’ve rowed home" sort of thing. Well, bloody as it turned out was, he was fishing away there and this big bugger come up and lay alongside the boat which was longer than his dinghy sort of thing. So he rowed home that day, and he was back on the beach when the commercial boats arrived in. The next bloody, he went back out the following week or whenever, the same thing happened! So he went to home the second time, and the shark came up and he bit the oar in half. So when they arrived, to pick him up and tow him home, he was lying on the back of the boat, bloody out of sight, petrified. 

CRAWFORD: Any reason why that White Pointer would have bitten the oar in half? 

BETHUNE: Well, I don’t know. He may have given him ... had a poke at him with the oar. Wouldn’t know. 

CRAWFORD: When he was fishing, would he have been handlining? 

BETHUNE: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: For Blue Cod? 

BETHUNE: No, Groper. 

CRAWFORD: When you said that the man in the rowboat who was towed ... you said that he was laying in the bottom of the boat. What was the purpose for him laying in the bottom of the boat? 

BETHUNE: So the bloody fish couldn’t see him. 

CRAWFORD: Was there any indication ...

BETHUNE: He must have been circling the boat. 

CRAWFORD: Yeah. Some indication that maybe the animal was looking in the boat? 

BETHUNE: Oh probably, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Well, some White Pointers are known to do stuff - they call 'spy-hopping'. 

BETHUNE: I know. [laughs]
 
CRAWFORD: Was this before your time? 

BETHUNE: Yeah. Heard it from Dad. 

CRAWFORD: So maybe in the 1930’s as well? 

BETHUNE: It would be. There were two commercial boats still down there fishing Tautuku, but it was an ex-bloody whaling station. 

CRAWFORD: When would that whaling station have closed down? 

BETHUNE: Round about the same time, I would say. 

CRAWFORD: In the 30’s? 

BETHUNE: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Do you remember the old-timers talking about the White Pointers and the whaling station? 

BETHUNE: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: What do you remember them saying? 

BETHUNE: Well, as soon as they harpooned a whale, the White Pointers turned up virtually. You know, when they were towing them back to be processed. 

CRAWFORD: And the sharks would be following? Or trying to take a bite? 

BETHUNE: Oh, biting

CRAWFORD: As soon as the whale carcass was hauled up next to the vessel, the White Pointers were around - taking bites?

BETHUNE: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Were there any occasions when the White Pointers were either taking a run at smaller boats that might have been associated with the whaling operations? 

BETHUNE: Not that I can recall. But I’ll be surprised if it didn’t happen. 

CRAWFORD: At the whaling station, once they hauled the whale out ... I’m presuming that they hauled it to shore, winch it up, and then start flensing and all the rest of it? Is it the case that there were White Pointers that would hang around ...

BETHUNE: Oh, for sure. I’d really count on it. The last whaling station was Tory Channel in NZ here and I've heard accounts of them being round the slipway here. 

CRAWFORD: What was the exact location of the whaling station down here? 

BETHUNE: Tautuku Peninsula - on the north side. Tautuku Headlands, river comes down, boat harbour is right there. 

CRAWFORD: To your knowledge, have there been any White Pointer attacks on humans - along this stretch of coastline, the Catlins?

BETHUNE: Oh well, about the mid 60’s. I touched on it the day before, when you were talking to what’s-his-name. There was a shark attack, a woman was taken by a shark at Long Point between that time and the '70’s. 

CRAWFORD: Late 1960’s, there was a woman attacked at Long Point? 

BETHUNE: Yeah. She got washed off the rocks with a big wave, down into the Kelp - her husband was there. She got out into the Kelp, and a shark come in and took her. And that was round about the same time as Paul [Richardson] - that he’d seen the White Pointer on the south side of Long Point. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly when was this? 

BETHUNE: I'd say '68-'69. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. In terms of that women being swept into the Kelp bed by the wave - did people see a shark attack her? 

BETHUNE: Yeah, her husband saw it.

CRAWFORD: And was the body recovered? 

BETHUNE: No. 

CRAWFORD: Was there anything else you recall about the nature of this attack? Was there a breach, was there circling?

BETHUNE: No, no. There was a big write up in the local papers of course. But no, I can’t recall that much of it. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. If there was no body recovered, and there was an eye witness, it's sometimes not possible with a great deal of certainty to know what kind of shark ...

BETHUNE: Oh, for sure. But it was all the same time that big fish was being seen in that area. 

Copyright © 2017 Barry Bethune and Steve Crawford