ACTIVITY: Spearfishing CASE: GSAF 1962.09.02 DATE: Sunday

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ACTIVITY: Spearfishing CASE: GSAF 1962.09.02 DATE: Sunday
1963
ACTIVITY: Spearfishing
CASE: GSAF 1962.09.02
DATE: Sunday September 2, 1962
LOCATION: The incident took place in the Tyrrhenian Sea
at Secca del Quadro south of Monte Circeo (S. Felice
Circeo), Italy.
41º17'N, 13º15'E
NAME: Maurizio Sarra
DESCRIPTION: He was a 28-year-old male from Rome.
He was a well-known underwater photographer and the
author of a book, My Friend the Shark, a contributor to the
magazine Mondo Sommerso (Underwater World) and a
winner of the Golden Trident award. He was scheduled to
leave on September 10 for Polynesia on an assignment for
the University of Rome and the FAO. The diver was
tanned, and wearing a full black neoprene wetsuit and
using scuba.
BACKGROUND
WEATHER: It was a hot, sunny day and the air
temperature was about 85ºF.
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
MOON PHASE: New Moon, August 30, 1962
SEA CONDITIONS: The water was clear and very warm due to the exceptionally dry and
sunny summer season.
DISTANCE FROM SHORE: Three miles
DEPTH OF WATER AT INCIDENT SITE: 30 to 40 metres, but the diver was ascending and
was at a depth of 10 metres when he was bitten by the shark.
TIME: 10h20
NARRATIVE: Sarra had successfully speared many fish that were
attached to his waist on a stringer. At 10h15 a motorboat approached
the boat from which Sarra was diving to advise them that a white
shark had been sighted in the area. When Sarra surfaced to load a
freshly speared grouper, Epinephelus guaza, onto the boat, he was
advised there was a shark in the vicinity. Sarra had left his speargun
or camera on the bottom, and dived again to recover it. As Sarra was
making his ascent, blood welled to the surface and he surfaced a
moment later. He did not appear to be aware how seriously he had
been injured; he joked, “These sharks bite hard!” The boy called for
help and was assisted by Massimo Gemini, who had just arrived on
another boat. The two managed to bring the injured diver onboard.
The diver lost consciousness a few minutes later.
Maurizio Sarra
INJURY: The most serious injury was to the posterior thigh; there was an extensive tear
down to the bone from a point two-thirds down the thigh with loss of tissue. The tear
continued down to the diver’s heel. He was also severely bitten in the popliteal region and
on the calf, which suggests the shark approached the diver from behind. The attending
physician was Dr. De Cesare.
FIRST AID: Unknown. From the time the diver was retrieved from the sea until the boat
reached the beach 15 minutes elapsed, and it took another 25 minutes to reach the
hospital.
TREATMENT: At the hospital (Ospedale Civile, Terracine (Latina), Italy), the diver was
given four units of blood and two units of plasma as well as oxygen and analeptics,
cardiotonics and antibiotics. During surgery haemostasis was applied, which was
particularly difficult on account of the innumerable lesions. Despite four hours of surgery
and numerous units of blood and plasma the diver did not survive. He died from irreversible
shock at 22h30.
SPECIES INVOLVED: The attack was thought to involve a white shark, Carcharodon
carcharias.
SOURCES: Times of Malta, December 11, 1962, page 14; Professor Enrico Tortonese,
Museum of Natural History, Genoa; Alessandro De Maddalena, Italian Shark Attack File;
Carletti (1973), Gianturco (1978), Marini (1989), Gilioli (1989), Giudici & Fino (1989), et al.
CASE INVESTIGATOR: Chris Moore, Global Shark Accident File
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
1962
1962
1962
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Stampa Sera, September 3, 1962, page 4
6 Miles away from the Coast of Circeo
Shark bites a Young Scuba Diver from Rome
After being rescued with Difficulty, He had one Leg amputated at the Hospital
Latina, Monday morning
Six miles away from the shore of Circeo, a voracious dogfish bit scuba diver Maurizio
Sarra, aged 27, who lived in Rome. He was a well-known underwater photographer who
won the Italian underwater fishing championship twice. Yesterday morning around
noon, Sarra and a couple of friends set off to sea in a motorboat. While he was
underwater, a shark that had strayed from a school of seven attacked him and bit his
legs. Sarra’s friends immediately dived and drove the dangerous shark away by hitting it
with their harpoons.
The young diver was taken back to shore by motorboat and thence to Terracina
Hospital, where he underwent a delicate operation lasting longer than four hours, during
which surgeons had to amputate his left leg. He was give five blood transfusions and
three hundred stitches. Latina Hospital dispatched blood plasma through agents of the
Road Police in the hope of saving the bold swimmer from death.
In the meantime, we have learned that yesterday morning a group of dogfish,
allegedly seven or eight, were spotted off Latina lido, no farther than 200 metres
(656.15 feet) from the coast. For some time now, the big sharks have been swimming
around in the expanse of sea from Rio Martino to San Felice Ciceo due to the fish
abundance of these days.
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Stampa Sera
September 3, 1962, page 23
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
The Young Scuba Diver bitten by a Shark at Circeo died
Maurizio Sarra, from Rome, was a Journalist working for Mondo Sommerso and he participated in
Scientific Expeditions organized by Folco Quilici - He dived Three Miles off the Shore and a Shark
attacked him—Rescued by a Friend, he underwent a Useless Surgery at Terracina Hospital.
Latina, Monday evening
Maurizio Sarra, the young scuba diver attacked by a shark off San Felice Circeo yesterday
morning, died of a cardiovascular collapse.
Maurizio Sarra was 28 years old, and was well known everywhere in Italy for his skills as a
spearfisher and for his work as an underwater photographer.
The bold diver lived in Via Totolini 34, at the Parioli, and this was not his first encounter with
“the tigers of the sea”. He participated in several expeditions, some with Folco Quilici, the
documentary director specialized in underwater shooting, to every sea in the world. He was such
an expert of the underwater world that he gained wide popularity by authoring the book Il mio
amico pescecane (My Friend the Dogfish), which was the result of his several experiences.
Appreciated for his work for the popular magazine Mondo Sommerso, Sarra (who recently won
the “tridente d’oro” (Golden Trident) award for figurative arts at the world exhibition for
underwater activities in Ustica) was going to leave for Polynesia to compose a photographic
report on behalf of Mondo Sommerso, the University of Rome and FAO (Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations).
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
The tragic incident occurred yesterday morning around 10 am, three miles off the shore, where
Sarra and a friend had gone by motorboat. The excursion was not an end in itself. The scuba
diver was doing a job for the magazine he worked for, and needed to take a sample of a very
rare grouper species, Epinephelus Alexandrinus, which has a large yellow spot on its back. That
big fish had been identified at a depth of 35 metres on a plateau called “Il quadro” (The square),
four kilometers (2.48 miles) away from the promontory of Circeo. Maurizio descended, spotted
the fish and harpooned it. It is almost certain that this was the cause of the shark attack. The
smell and sight of blood must have excited it and pushed it to attack the man.
No one had the chance to see the dogfish that attacked the young man. The diver’s friend on
the boat could only see a dark shadow gliding swiftly underwater while Sarra was ascending,
and then the water surface became red with blood. Lifted on board by his friend before the shark
could come back, Maurizio Sara fell onto the bottom of the boat while blood was spurting from
his appalling wounds. His friend immediately tied a tourniquet at the base of his legs in order to
slow down that horrible haemorrhage, and then he started the outboard motor and headed back
to shore at great speed. Once on the shore, while someone was taking care to call the medical
staff at Terracina Hospital, a motorist took the wounded man there in a Ferrari. Sarra was
immediately taken to the surgery where he underwent a four-hour-long-operation and was given
250 sutures. The young man was extremely weak, as his blood pressure had dropped to
dreadfully low levels. Nevertheless, everybody thought that his stamina would help him to
overcome that crisis.
Instead, at 10:30 pm, the young man died. Surgical shock occurred on top of his extreme
weakness and great loss of blood, and caused his blood pressure to drop even lower. He had a
cardiovascular collapse and his heart stopped beating.
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
“His Friend the Dogfish”
Tore his leg apart
Imperio Diario de Zamora de Falange
September 4, 1962, page 7
Terracina (South of Italy). 3—
Maurizio Sarra, the well-known
photographer and scuba diver,
died at the hospital of this town
last night, after a shark had torn
apart one of his legs. Sarra, aged
28, was diving three miles off the
shore attended by a boat, when
a shark attacked him. He was
able to get on the boat and then
fainted.
Sarra was the author of the
book Il mio amico pescacano
(sic) (My Friend the Dogfish).
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
La Stampa
September 4, 1962, page 10
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
The Horrible Death of a Young, Well-Known Diver from Rome
Shark tears apart the Author of the Book “Il mio amico pescecane” (My Friend the Dogfish) in the
Sea off Circeo. The Man is 28-year-old Massimo Serra—On Sunday, He dived to harpoon a
Grouper—A Huge Dogfish attacked Him, biting him thrice—Doctors tried to save his Life by giving
his Wounds 338 Stitches, but their efforts were in vain. He died after Four-Hour Agony
(News special report)
Rome, 3rd September
Yesterday, off San Felice Circeo, a shark tore apart a young scuba diver, who is well known
by scuba diving fans in Italy and abroad. He died 12 hours later at Terracina Hospital, where a
surgeon tried to suture the horrible wounds in his legs by giving 338 stitches during a four-hour
surgery. When Maurizio Sarra – the victim of this tragic incident – arrived at the hospital, he had
lost too much blood, and his sportsman’s heart, though strong, collapsed last night around 11:30
pm.
While still conscious, Maurizio Sarra, was able to give an account of the terrible incident
occurred to him. He was about 12 metres (39 feet) underwater and he was swiftly swimming
towards the 40-metre-deep bottom (131 feet) where he had previously left his film camera while
diving.
Suddenly a huge shark attacked him from the back, bit his left leg and tore his calf apart.
Three times, the shark, implacable and fierce, lacerated the diver’s limgs. “I’ve never seen
such a huge shark,” murmured Maurizio Sarra, before fainting again. His friends, who were
waiting on two boats, rescued him; they dived when they saw that, at once, the water was getting
red with blood.
The tragedy occurred three miles off the coast yesterday morning around 10 am in that
expanse of the sea that anglers from Circeo call “secca del faro” (sic).
Maurizio Sarra dived equipped with a speargun and film camera, although he was aware that a
school of sharks had been swimming in the area for a week.
Sarra was 28 years old, and was well acquainted with these sea monsters, as he went to
Polynesia, the Red Sea and other places around the world to photograph life underwater and
fish of all species.
Several times he was face to face with a dogfish, but he always managed to get through by
standing still and waiting for the shark to stop swimming in wide circles around its prey. Usually,
if a man does not make a move, sharks do not attack them. The young man also authored a
book called “Il mio amico pescecane” (My Friend the Dogfish).
However, this time there was no amazing ritual. Excited by the blood of a big grouper that the
diver had harpooned after photographing it by its den, the shark rushed straight against Sarra,
attacked him from the back, and after biting him thrice, it rapidly disappeared in the deep.
Maurizio Sarra, who was the third son of “commendatore” Amalio Sarra, the owner of a
cosmetics company, was renowned for his photographing and scuba diving skills. He traveled
several times for specialist magazines and film producers; he worked also with Folco Quilici, the
film director specialized in shooting underwater marine life.
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Stampa Serra
September 4, 1962, page 5
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
Death caused by Traumatic shock
Shock killed the Diver Victim of Shark Attack
Maurizio Sarra died after recovering consciousness and talking to the doctor that was taking care of
him -- He could not defend himself from the attack, because he did not see the shark coming
By our news correspondent
Latina, Tuesday evening
Today the funeral of Maurizio Sarra, the young scuba diver bitten by a shark three miles off San Felice
Circeo on Sunday morning, will take place in Rome where the procession will be starting from Via Tortollei
(sic) 34 in the neighborhood of the Parioli. Yesterday evening, the Procuratore della Repubblica in Latina
gave his consent to the body being removed.
In spite of his stamina, dread killed Maurizio Sarra. After recovering consciousness and talking, though
briefly, to his doctor, the young diver died of traumatic shock to his serious, extended wounds in his left leg,
and especially in his right leg. At Terracina Hospital, Dr. Marcello De Cesare and other doctors’ tireless
efforts were useless. They stood continuously at the bedside of this unfortunate young man, until he
breathed his last. In spite of repeated transfusions, the wounded man’s blood pressure dropped to an
extremely low level, and his body, deeply affected by a traumatic shock, did not react as it should have
done after the long surgery. Ultimately, Maurizio Sarra’s heart stopped beating after his numerous friends
and occasional acquaintances together with other sportsmen had started hoping again while anxiously
waiting in front of the hospital.
The surgery was successful, though it lasted four hours, during which doctors tried to put his torn limbs
together by giving 308 sutures onto the extended wounds. Blood and plasma transfusions were given
during and after surgery. Maurizio recovered consciousness and talked to Dr. De Cesae, as it has been
reported above. “Can you recall what happened to you?, asked the doctor. Maurizio answered positively,
“Would you like to tell me?” went on the doctor, but the poor boy, whose eyes showed the dread he had
experienced during those moments, declined, he did not feel like recounting his story.
Doctors had concerns that gangrene might occur especially in his crushed left leg but they were confident
that they could save this famous scuba diver’s life. However, shock was stronger than Maurizio Sarra’s
stamina. It deprived his body of its natural defences and any ability to react against disease, and it soon
took his life.
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Yesterday evening, Maurizio’s father and brothers, Albaro (sic), aged 30, and Enzo, aged 45, arrived from
Rome. Other relatives and friends also arrived, including the editors of Mondo Sommerso, Riva and
Gregoretti, with whom he often worked and faced challenges far riskier than the last fatal one.
Maurizio’s body was prepared to the funeral parlor at Terracina Civil Hospital, where relatives and friends
have been keeping vigil. Solicitor Oscar Cantiello, from the Pretura of Terracina, went to the hospital to
meet and interview Maurizio’s friends, especially Massimo Gemini and his friend Donatella Morandi who
witnessed the shark attack and rescued their wounded friend. Dr. De Cesare sharply denied rumours
spreading after the bold diver’s death on the transfusion blood not being sufficient. The doctor declared that
there was more than enough blood, despite many litres being used, both because there was plenty in the
hospital blood bank and because several friends and anglers offered to donate blood. Therefore, the only
cause of Maurizio Sarra’s death was the severe surgical shock that occurred to him.
Comments on this tragic incident intertwine, and real events and imagination are tied in a knot. People
wonder how a dogfish could attack a swimmer as expert at Maurizio, and why he could do nothing to
defend himself. The truth is that Maurizio Sarra could notice the ferocious shark’s presence only when he
felt it ripping his left leg. He was descending to the bottom of the sea to retrieve a film camera that he had
left there to carry onto the boat a big and very rare grouper that he had just caught.
The descent took place in the water, still dirty with the grouper’s blood that had copiously come out during
Maurizio Sarra’s ascending to the water surface. Therefore, the dogfish attacked fiercely and repeatedly,
without hesitating or studying its prey as sharks usually do. The blood had excited the fish so much that it
was pushed to attack the first dark thing in the water. Had the terrible shark come nearer under normal
circumstances, and had poor Mauiizio been able to see it, with his experience and his knowledge of shark’s
habits, he could have easily managed the situation.
1963 : San Felice Circeo
1963 : San Felice Circeo
1963 : San Felice Circeo
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
La Stampa, September 5, 1962, page 13
Translation by
Elettra Zanetti
In the Sea in front of San Felice Circeo
Huge Dogfish Captured where
A Shark tore apart a Scuba Diver
(Special report)
Latina, 4th September
(r.r.) A few anglers carried out a fruitful search off Terracina
today. In the afternoon, the Percoco brothers captured an overthree-metre-long dogfish weighing 10,000 kg near “Secca del
Quadro” the point where a shark attacked and tore apart scuba
diver Maurizio Sarra, aged 28, from Rome. The shark was
hauled to shore and there ripped.
A school of seven sharks had been haunting the seashore of
Latina area, Rio Martino, Terre Paola, San Felice Circeo and
Terracina, for some time. In fact, this morning a few swimmers
and several scuba divers could see the big sharks’ fins
ploughing the waters towards Anzio in the calm, clearest sea,
300 metres (984.25 ft) away from the shore.
Since the scuba diver’s death, guard ships of the Italian
Guardia di Finanza have been searching the area, hoping to
have the opportunity to discharge their machine guns against the
hungry dogfish. These, clearly attracted by the expectation of
plundering an area so rich in fish at this time of year, have been
swimming closer to the coast than they should.
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
La Stampa, September 13, 1962, page 7
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
ED NOTE: It is rare to find so much misinformation in a single article, even as
recently as 1962
Some Species are Plunderers of the Oceans while Others are Harmless
Sharks in the Seas of Italy
A Familiar Presence in Tropical Seas, They become less numerous as we move
Northward—They are still often seen in the Mediterranean—Maurizio Sarra’s Attacker was
maybe a Porbeagle—Are Scuba Divers more exposed to Risk than Common Swimmers?
The recent death of Maurizio Sarra, the scuba diver and naturalist torn apart by a shark three
miles off Circeo, confirms once again the presence of wild sharks in the seas of Italy. Therefore,
it does not sound out of place to provide some pieces of information on the species that are
more likely to be seen in the waters surrounding the country, and explain some characteristics of
this fearsome family of plunderers.
Not all sharks are dangerous to man, actually some species, like the common smooth-hound
have large, blunt teeth, similar to buttons that they use to crush mollusk shells, when they feed
on. However, other species have jaws armed with rows of triangle-shaped, pointed and assharp-as razor teeth, which often are zig-zag-edged to tear apart their prey’s tissues more
easily. Many of them are obsessed with their insatiable hunger that pushes them to devour
anything that comes in their jaws’ way.
Sharks are a familiar presence in tropical seas, where their number itself makes them
extremely dangerous, but they gradually become less numerous in colder waters. Some species
follow anglers’ boats with the aim to pull out fish from nets, others, like the huge great white
shark that can reach 12 metres in length (30.37 feet), haunt the open seas and attack fish of any
size, including small cetaceans, and anything, man included, that arouses their formidable
appetite. Luckily, dangerous species are seldom seen in the seas of Italy, where their presence
is erratic. Nevertheless, some species visit the waters surrounding Italy on a regular basis, and
anglers often capture them. The most common species include the smalltooth sandtiger
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
(Carcharias ferox) that can reach four metres (13.2 feet) in length and exceed 300 kilograms
(661.38 lbs) in weight. This shark has a slender body, a protruding snout and five-pointed teeth,
and usually lives in deep waters. In summer, it may happen that it comes up to the surface and
sometimes swims closer to shores, proving to be alarmingly aggressive.
The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is the same size as the one above. It is
aggressive, agile and fast, and although anglers fear it, they keep chasing it for its rather tasty
flesh.
The porbeagle (Lamna nasus), which is even bigger than the smalltooth sandtiger, has a squat
head and a slightly turned-up snout with a wide, curved mouth equipped with three rows of
pointed teeth. It is savage, bold and aggressive, and it moves very swiftly tearing its prey apart.
Finally, before leaving this subject, we would like to go back to the real giant among cruel
sharks, the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), more commonly known by its epithet,
“man eater”. As above said, it is up to 12 metres long and weighs up to 300 kilograms. No
barriers can come between this plunderer and its hunger. Its triangle-shaped, pointed and sharp
teeth are over seven centimeters (2.75 inches) long and they are the dread of tropical seas.
Stunning stories on its insatiable rapacity have been reported. Well also this huge shark can end
up in the Mediterranean.
In the seas of Italy, sharks rarely attack a man without bleeding wounds. Characteristics of
incidents caused by sharks reveal a low number of tragic cases.
Circumstances change when a man is injured; in that case, sharks in the neighborhood
immediately smell blood and throw themselves against their victims. Though their sight is scarce,
they have a well-developed sense of smell that enables them to perceive and consider, even at a
great distance, the presence of prey.
Thus, encountering a shark may be dangerous, if we consider the tragic consequences and
dreadful pain that the victim has to suffer. Nevertheless, we must not overrate danger for the
reasons stated above.
It is likely that Maurizio Sarra was attacked because the blood of the grouper that the diver had
just captured and was carrying excited the shark. The smell of blood and therefore its perceiving
a wounded animal excited the shark and caused the tragedy.
Mario Guerra
Director of the Bergamo
Natural History Museum
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Times of Malta
December 11, 1962, page 14
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
La Stampa, June 14, 1966, page 13
Translation by Elettra Zanetti
Along the coast between Posillipo to Mergellina: on the lookout for sharks
Machine Guns and Poison to chase the Sharks
threatening Bathers on the Beaches of Naples
The Police forbade bathers from swimming away from the shoreline — Armed yachts search the
Gulf and dissolved chemical substances in the water to keep sharks far — The dangerous school of
sharks [10 blue sharks that are 5 metres (16 feet) long and weight 500 kilograms (1,102 lbs)] is likely
to have come from the Atlantic, following the American steamship “Constitution”
(By our news correspondent)
Naples, 13th June
Alarm and concern are spreading throughout the beaches of Naples after a school of 10
sharks has been spotted in the gulf, 400 metres away from Cape Posillipo. Today the police
have forbidden bathers from swimming away from the shores, although no sightings of sharks
has been reported to the “Capitaneria di porto” (Maritime Police Station) of Naples for the last 24
hours. The service people on the guard ship “G.L.-Z4” of the “Guardia di Fianza” (Tax and
Revenue Control Police) were the first to spot the sharks a quarter of a mile off the shore
yesterday morning. While performing anti-smuggling operations along the coast, they saw a
school of sharks heading toward land.
Today, from dawn to sunset, the Italian Navy’s boats and the Police’s motor launches have
fruitlessly searched the waters between Posillipo and Mergellina. The armed yacht “Scirocco”
equipped with machine guns and chemical substances to be dissolved in the water in order to
keep sharks far from beaches sailed the open sea to chase the fish.
Only two anglers, Salvatore Esentato, aged 45, the owner of the fishing boat “Sant’Anna”, and
Carmine Chianese, aged 50, stated that they had spotted a remarkably-sized specimen of shark
off “scoglio di S. Martino” (Saint Martin’s cliff) near Capo Miseno, when they went back to the
small port of Pozzuoli, after throwing their nets in the Procida channel this morning. This is a fivemetre-long blue shark weighing 500 kilograms.
According to their statement, the school of sharks, which may have swum to the Italian seas
after the transatlantic “Constitution” that arrived in Naples from New York last Saturday, should
be heading to the open sea, considering the substantial distance from the spot where it was first
seen.
However, the captains of the steamboats and hydrofoils linking Naples to Sorrento and the
islands located in the gulf did not confirm the anglers’ report. In fact, maritime authorities have
ordered them to observe carefully the sea surface in order to localize the area where the sharks
have been hanging about.
After all, this is not the first time that schools of either sharks or dolphins have been swimming
close to the shores of the Gulf of Naples. Last year, the crews of the Italian Navy’s boats that
collaborated to the swimming race Capri-Napoli spotted a few specimens of blue shark. On that
occasion, patrol boats had to follow the swimmers to prevent incidents.
Furthermore, two years ago (sic), a shark attack Maurizio Sarra, a spearfisher from Rome,
aged 24 (sic), off San Felice Circeo near Gaeta. After a tragic fight, the young man managed to
come up to the surface, but died from excessive loss of blood.
The memory of this tragic incident and the fear of bumping into a shark have been keeping
people far from the beaches along the coast of Naples, even though today a temperature of 34°
C (93.2°F) in the shade was recorded and high humidity made the heat unbearable.
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Circeo, settembre 1962
I fondali prospicenti il promontorio del Circeo furono per anni il regno quasi incontrastato di
numerosi squali appartenenti alle specie più pericolose dei nostri mari, come lo squalo bianco e
lo smeriglio. I ripetuti incontri, più o meno cruenti per il subacqueo (e anche per lo squalo)
culminarono con il drammatico attacco del 2 settembre 1962, che costò la vita al fotografo
subacqueo romano Maurizio Sarra. Maurizio Sarra fu uno dei pionieri dell'attività subacquea in
Italia e seppur giovane, acquistò rapidamente una grande notorietà come fotografo subacqueo.
In un'epoca in cui l'attività subacquea era praticamente sinonimo di caccia, Sarra fu uno dei primi
a lasciare il fucile per sostituirlo con la macchina fotografica, diventando famoso soprattutto
grazie alle sue splendide foto naturalistiche. Era comunque un grande cacciatore e profondo
conoscitore dei fondali della sua regione, soprattutto quelli del Circeo, all'epoca e forse ancora
oggi i più belli e ricchi di tutto il litorale laziale. Era solito effettuare le sue immersioni sulla grande
e bella secca del Quadro, qualche miglio a largo del lato orientale del promontorio, di solito nei
suoi posti "segreti", dove cioè era sicuro di fare ottime fotografie e soprattutto di portare a paiolo
sempre qualche cernia.
La secca del Quadro è un grande bassofondo di forma triangolare, con la base rivolta verso il
Circeo, che si estende per molte miglia quadrate, con una profondità media di 20-40 metri e
caratterizzata da gruppi sparsi di massi e qualche roccione tra vaste praterie di Posidonia. Giunto
il giorno precedente da Roma, passò il sabato a fare progetti per l'immersione del giorno
successivo e soprattutto per il grande viaggio in Polinesia che avrebbe dovuto intraprendere di lì
a poco. La mattina della domenica, Sarra si incontra con il suo amico Massimo Gemini verso le
sette e mezzo circa. L'accordo era che sarebbero dovuti andare prima a prendere una loro
amica, Donatella Morandi, alla Baia d'Argento, dall'altra parte del promontorio. Sarra decide però
di non perdere ulteriormente tempo, per poter sfruttare appieno la giornata e convince Massimo
ad andare da solo. Prende il mare allora con la sua piccola imbarcazione, dal buffo nome di "O
Maria Vergine I", dotata di un piccolo fuoribordo Johnson da 6 cavalli, in compagnia del giovane
pescatore Benito Di Genova, che gli farà da assistenza rimanendo a bordo durante le sue battute
di pesca. I due si allontanano dalla costa finchè riescono a prendere i rilevamenti: "la cima del
Circeo aperta di mezzo palmo col Semaforo, la Villa Auget è addosso all'ultima casa di San
Felice e l'albergo Neanderthal si trova sotto il sentiero spartifuoco". Cominciano a scandagliare
per trovare esattamente il "Taglio di Levante" della Secca del Quadro, ad una profondità di 30
metri. Sarra inizia a vestirsi e, proprio nel momento in cui stava controllando l'erogatore, lo
scandaglio a mano "batte" i fatidici 30 metri. Erano le dieci. Nel frattempo Massimo Gemini era
andato a prendere l'amica Donatella alla Baia d'Argento ed era tornato al porto. Ancora vedevano
in lontananza la barchetta di Sarra. Partono quasi alle dieci con un daycruiser "Bermuda",
motoscafo semicabinato di 6 metri costruito dai cantieri Posillipo e dotato di un potente motore da
60 cavalli. Coprire tre miglia con una barca di quel tipo fu questione di pochi minuti e i due
raggiungono la barchetta di Sarra mentre lui era immerso da una decina di minuti.
Alle dieci e un quarto si affianca alle due barche un altro motoscafo, che proviene dalla terra e
che avverte i tre che poco prima avevano avvistato sotto lo sperone del faro un pescecane, con
una grossa pinna dorsale grigia che svettava alta e dritta fuori dall'acqua. In quel momento
riemerge Sarra che, aiutato da Benîto, butta in barca una cernia di circa 12 chilogrammi
malamente arpionata. Massimo gli comunica che è stato visto nelle vicinanze un grosso squalo,
ma lui facendo una smorfia si riimmerge subito, probabilmente per recuperare il fucile che
stranamente era rimasto sul fondo. Sono le dieci e venti e l'immersione si preannuncia come al
solito ancora lunga e ricca di altre prede. Sarra invece torna in superficie quasi subito, caccia un
urlo soffocato dal boccaglio dell'erogatore, annaspa con un frenetico movimento delle braccia, poi
un altro urlo e l'acqua che ribolle intorno a lui si tinge di rosso. Ma la quantità di sangue è
sicuramente eccessiva per essere quella di un pesce. Sarra viene allora tirato su, mentre tiene
ancora in mano la macchina fotografica, ancora non si rende conto della gravità della ferita.
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Prima di perdere i sensi, ha ancora lo spirito di pronunciare una battuta scherzosa tipo "però,
mordono bene questi squali". La gamba sinistra era ridotta in condizioni tremende: interi fasci
muscolari erano stati asportati e l'osso era messo a nudo in più parti.
Il subacqueo viene portato immediatamente al porto a bordo del veloce motoscafo dell'amico
Massimo Gemini e dal Circeo, con una veloce automobile, fino all'ospedale di Terracina,
raggiunto dopo mezz'ora. Immediatamente viene soccorso e, vista la grande quantità di sangue
perduto, viene sottoposto a numerose trasfusioni. Il dottor De Cesare, dopo avergli riscontrato
molte gravi ferite alla gamba sinistra, dalla caviglia alla coscia, tra cui la quasi completa
asportazione del polpaccio, e altre meno gravi alla gamba destra, inizia l'operazione, che si
protrae per 4 ore. Dopo avergli applicato ben 250 punti di sutura, il medico, vista la gravità delle
ferite e il grave stato di choc in cui versa Maurizio Sarra, si riserva la prognosi. In base alle
deduzioni fatte dal medico dell'Ospedale di Terracina osservando le ferite, lo squalo con il primo
morso deve avergli squarciato la gamba sinistra dalla coscia al polpaccio, poi si devono essere
susseguiti altri attacchi approssimativamente nello stesso punto, quando era già in superficie e si
era accorto della presenza dell'animale. Maurizio Sarra rimane in vita fino a tarda notte, quando
sopraggiunge una crisi che non verrà superata. Il dottor De Cesare ha riferito che il subacqueo
non è morto in seguito alle ferite riportate, giudicate non estremamente gravi, ma per il forte choc
irreversibile che non è regredito, nonostante le intense terapie applicate dallo staff medico.
Non è stato possibile stabilire, né allora né in seguito, l'esatta meccanica dell'attacco né
tantomeno conoscere la specie di squalo responsabile della morte di Sarra. Massimo Gemini è
l'unico testimone a vedere la sagoma scura di un grosso pesce che si avvicinava velocemente al
subacqueo e subito dopo, una grande macchia di sangue che si spandeva nell'acqua. Le ipotesi
fatte dopo l'incidente hanno identificato lo squalo come un probabile smeriglio ( Lamna nasus ) di
grandi dimensioni. Lo proverebbero sia la caratteristica del morso sulla gamba di Sarra, sia gli
evidenti segni lasciati dai denti dello squalo sul fodero del coltello che il fotografo portava
allacciato sulla gamba destra. A favore di questa ipotesi anche le testimonianze di due anni prima
dei fratelli Bucher e dello stesso Sarra, che ripetutamente osservarono un grande esemplare di
squalo, che tentò anche di attaccare anche un subacqueo. La responsabilità dell'attacco, vista
l'esperienza di Goffredo Lombardo del 1956 e l'avvistamento di due grandi esemplari nel 1964
potrebbe ricadere anche su un Carcharodon carcharias che si aggirava in quel vasto tratto di
mare. In ogni caso, di qualsiasi specie si trattasse, lo squalo non fu più avvistato nei giorni
successivi l'incidente.
Translated text
Circeo, September 1962
The seabed around the Circeo promontory was for years the unopposed reign of numerous
sharks belonging to the most dangerous species of our seas, such as the white shark and
porbeagle. A series of meetings, more or less cruel for the diver (and also for the shark)
culminated in the dramatic attack of September 2, 1962, which cost the life of Roman underwater
photographer Maurizio Sarra. Maurizio Sarra was one of the pioneers of diving in Italy and
although young, rapidly acquired a great reputation as an underwater photographer. In an age
when diving was virtually synonymous with hunting, Sarra was one of the first to replace his
speargun with the camera, becoming famous especially thanks to his beautiful nature photos. He
was still a great hunter and connoisseur of the depth of his region, especially those of Circeo, at
the time, and perhaps still, the most beautiful and rich around the coast of Lazio. He used to
make his diving on the big and beautiful underwater triangular plateau located a few miles off the
eastern side of the promontory, usually in its “secret” places where he was sure to take great
photographs and above all to always bring some grouper to pot .
The Secco del Quatro is a great shoal of triangular shape, with the base facing Circeo, which
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
extends for several square miles, with an average depth of 20-40 meters and characterized by
scattered groups of boulders and rock somewhere between vast prairies Posidonia. He arrived
the previous day from Rome and on Saturday made plans for the next day's dive and especially
for the big trip in Polynesia that should have taken a little later. On Sunday morning, Sarra meets
with his friend Massimo Gemini at about 07h30. The agreement was that they had to go first to
pick up their friend, Donatella Morandi, in Baia d’Argento (Silver Bay) on the other side of the
headland. Sarra decides not lose more time, to be able to take full advantage of the day and
convinces Max to go alone. They take to sea with his small boat, named "O Virgin Mary I",
equipped with a small 6 hp Johnson outboard motor, in the company of a young fisherman,
Benito Di Genova, who will assist and stay on board. The two move away from the coast until
they can take sightings: The top half of the Circeo lines up with Semaforo, the Villa Auget is the
last house on the San Felice and the hotel is located under the Neanderthal trail firebreak path.
They begin taking soundings to locate the "Taglio Levante" of the great La Secca triangle which
lies at a depth of 30 metres. Sarra begins to dress and, just when he was checking his regulator,
the depth sounder reads the fateful 30 metres. It was 10h00. Meanwhile, Massimo Gemini had
picked up his friend Donatella at Baia d’Argento, returned to port and saw Sarra’s boat in the
distance. They depart just before 10h00 in a 6-metre Bermuda cabin cruiser built in the Posillipo
shipyard and equipped with a powerful 60 hp engine. Covering three miles with a boat of that kind
takes a matter of minutes and the two reached the boat of Sarra within about ten minutes.
At 10h15, the two boats meet another boat from shore which warns them that under the spur of
the lighthouse, a shark had been spotted which has a large dorsal fin gray that soars high and
straight out of the water. At that moment Sarra surfaces and, helped by Benito, throws into the
boat a badly harpooned 12-kilogram grouper. Max tells him that a big shark was seen nearby, but
he smiles and dives again, probably to recover the speargun which strangely remained on the
bottom. At 10h20, the sea was full of fish. Sarra returns to the surface almost immediately with a
muffled scream in the mouthpiece of his regulator, frantically waving his arms, then he screams
again as the water bubbling around him turns red. But the amount of blood is too excessive to be
that of a fish. Sarra is then pulled up, still holding the camera in his hand, still not realizing the
severity of the wound. Before losing consciousness, he jokes: “These sharks bite well.” His left
leg was in terrible condition: whole muscle bundles had been removed and the bone was
exposed in parts.
The diver is brought immediately to the port to board the speed boat of his friend Massimo
Gemini to Circeo, and reached the hospital in Terracina in a fast car within half an hour.
Immediately Sarra is given numerous transfusions to replace blood lost. Dr. De Cesare, after
having examining the many serious injuries to his left leg, from the ankle to the thigh, including
the almost complete removal of the calf, and other less serious in his right leg, starts the
operation, which lasts for four hours. After having applied 250 stitches, the doctor due to the
serious wounds and severe state of shock of Maurizio Sarra, reserves the prognosis. According
to the deductions made by the doctor of the Hospital of Terracina observing the wounds, the
shark with the first bite must have torn the left leg from the thigh to the calf, then followed with
other attacks on approximately the same area, when he was already on the surface and was
aware of the presence of the animal. Maurizio Sarra remains alive until late at night, when a crisis
occurs that will not be exceeded. Dr. De Cesare reported that the diver did not die as a result of
his injuries, which are considered extremely serious, but for the strong irreversible shock that is
not regressed, despite intense therapies applied by the medical staff.
It was not possible to establish, either then or later, to know the exact mechanics of the attack or
the species of shark responsible for the death of Sarra. Massimo Gemini was the only witness to
see the dark shape of a big fish that was fast approaching the diver and soon after, a large blood
stain that was spreading in the water. The assumptions made after the accident identified the
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
shark as likely a large porbeagle (Lamna nasus). Marks of the shark’s teeth on the sheath of the
knife that the photographer had fastened on his right leg would prove to be characteristic of a
porbeagle shark. In favor of this hypothesis were also the testimonies of the brothers of Bucher
and Sarra, who two years earlier watched a large specimen of the shark which also repeatedly
tried to attack a diver. Responsibility for the attack, given the experience of Goffredo Lombardo of
1956 and the sighting of two large specimens in 1964 could fall even on a Carcharodon
carcharias that hovered in that vast stretch of sea. In any case, of any kind it was, the shark was
no longer seen in the days following the incident.
SOURCE: "Sharks Mediterranean" A.Giudici - F.Fino - ATLANTIS;
http://digilander.libero.it/zagi69/html/sarra.htm
San Felice Circeo
1962
1962
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.
Photo taken when Maurizio
Sarra is brought to shore
immediately after the attack
of a shark in the waters of
del Circeo
© Global Shark Accident File, 2001. All rights reserved. This report may not be abridged or
reproduced in any form without written permission of the Global Shark Accident File.

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