Beaufort County is a hot spot for sharks — ranking in the top 20 counties in the shark attacks in the United States, the country with the most shark attacks in the world.
Yet, shark attacks are a rare phenomenon in Beaufort County, which sees more than 2 million beachgoers every year.
There have been a total of 19 shark attacks on record off the Beaufort County coast in the last 180 years, according to the International Shark Attack File.
The first attack occurred just a few years after the Hilton Head Island Bridge was built, which connected the island to the mainland for the first time, in the beginning of Hilton Head’s tourist boom.
George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Natural Museum of History, said the rise in shark attacks in the last 100 years is directly correlated to the uptick of tourists visiting beaches and the population boom.
The good news? Burgess said a majority of the shark “attacks” are actually bites by smaller sharks in South Carolina.
An in-depth look at each recorded shark attack in Beaufort County reveals several common factors surrounding the events
Click through the map below for a brief history of shark attacks in Beaufort County:
JUNE 10, 1962. HILTON HEAD (BEACH UNKNOWN)
A 13-year-old boy fromSummerville, South Carolina was told he was the first person to bebit by a shark on Hilton Head Island by the doctor who treated him,The Charlotte Observer reports. He was swimming about 30 yards offshore when he said a black shark bit him in the thigh. A doctor inBluffton put nearly 250 stitches on the wound. “Thank god he bit mein the thigh and couldn't get his whole mouth around it. If he hadbit me in the ankle he would have taken my leg,” the boy said.
JULY29, 1962 HILTON HEAD ISLAND (BEACH UNKNOWN)
A 21-year-old ParrisIsland Marine became the second shark attack victim on Hilton Headin history and in 1962. His friend said he saw a 5 to 6 foot shark “dive” toward the victim, and he suffered “moderately severe” woundsin his hand and foot and was treated in Savannah.
AUGUST, 22, 1985.PALMETTO DUNES, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
An 87- year old Illinois man wasbitten in the calf while swimming 4-feet water- with hisgrandchildren bit around 4:45 p.m.
Reports say theman lost a lot of blood, but was in “fair to good condition” daysafter the attack. Witnesses said a shrimp boat had passed close tothe shore at the time and the shark likely was chasing trash fishand accidentally bit the man while in a “feeding frenzy.”
JUNE 9,1988. SEA PINES BEACH CLUB, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
A 37-year-oldMissouri man was sitting in waist-deep water at Sea Pines BeachClub around 4 p.m. June 9 when a shark bit his leg three times. TheAP reported that the non-fatal bite may have been the work of asand shark. His child was not injured. “Everybody else wasstunned," a witness said."Women were screaming about theirchildren. It couldn’t have been a busier, more populated beach.”
SEPT. 25 1994. NORTH FOREST BEACH, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
A Marylandwoman was attacked by a 10-to-12 foot shark in shoulder-high water50 to 75 feet off North Forest beach around 2 p.m. Sept. 25 1994.She suffered deep cuts from her from her chest to her right side.She was the 23rd shark attack victim in South Carolina on record inmore than 150 years. The doctor who treated her said, "It wastypical of a shark attack. She was bitten, then it pulled away andlet go, which is what sharks usually do.''
MAY 20, 2001. FRIPPISLAND (BEACH UNKNOWN)
In a rare occurrence, two people were bittenby sharks off the Beaufort County coast within two days. The areahadn’t seen a shark attack in seven years.
A Chapel Hill, N.C., manswimming off Fripp Island, near Beaufort, was bitten during an theearly evening swim in waist-deep water with his family on May 20.The doctor confirmed that the 13.5-inch wound was caused by ashark. "There really wasn't much to it. It just kind of took achomp and left. There wasn't a lot of pain. My concern was that ittook a minute or so to get out of the water and I wasn't sure if itwas coming back, " the victim said.
MAY 22, 2001. COLIGNY BEACH,HILTON HEAD ISLAND
An 11-year-old boy from Clyde, N.C., wasswimming in water about 4-feet-deep off Hilton Head Island’sColigny Beach when he was bitten in the shin by what a surgeonconfirmed was a shark. "It didn't really feel like a bite .It hitme and went away," the victim said.
JUNE 7, 2006. COLIGNY BEACH,HILTON HEAD ISLAND
A 7-year-old girl was bitten by a sharkWednesday afternoon while playing in the surf at Coligny Beacharound 3:34 p.m. in two-feet deep water. It initially was thoughtthat the girl was stung by a stingray when she was bit in her leftfoot. Experts said it was very possible the shark mistook the girlfor bait.
JULY 17, 2006. SINGLETON BEACH, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
ASylvania, Ohio, man was bitten by a shark in the foot at SingletonBeach on Hilton Head Island while he was standing in waist-deepwater around 10 a.m. July 17. He suffered several puncture woundsat the bottom of his foot. "I just felt a very large, almost like abaseball bat, hitting me in the leg. It was really hard. It kind ofknocked me off balance, and I felt a little bit of a tug at thesame time," the victim said after the attack.
JUNE 25, 2010, FRIPP ISLAND
A 6-year-old girl who was boogieboarding in waist-deep water around 1 p.m. June 25 was bitten inthe leg just a few feet away from shore, the Island Packet reports..It took 22 stitches to close the bite.She was released from thehospital the next day. "I'm not scared," the girl told her motherafter the attack. "I'll go back in the water."
SEPTEMBER 8, 2013COFFIN POINT, ST. HELENA ISLAND
A woman was attacked by a sharkSunday in the waters off Coffin Point near the mouth of the MorganRiver on St. Helena Island, a Lady's Island-St. Helena Island FireDistrict spokesman said. The woman had been boating in the areawith her husband, was bitten on her foot and ankle, according toDataw Island security chief. The husband contacted the U.S. CoastGuard for assistance.
MAY 7, 2014. COLIGNY BEACH, HILTON HEADISLAND
A 40-year-old Mooresville, N.C., woman was wading knee-deepTuesday afternoon at Coligny Beach when she felt something thumpagainst her foot and clamp down. She punched the “blue and whitefish” in the nose that she said was as wide as her shoulders. Thewoman’s husband noticed earlier — large pods of dolphins andsquadrons of pelicans — also may have signaled there were sharks inthe water.
OCTOBER 15, 2014. DRIESSEN BEACH, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
A7-year-old was swimming in an inner tube next to her family atDriessen Beach on Hilton Head Island just 10 feet from shore when ashark bit her in the foot. Doctors told the girl’s family the bitelooked like it came from a 3- to 4-foot bull shark. It took 50stitches to close the wound. “The dark inner tube she was standingin might have looked like food to the shark.” - the Indy Channelreports.
JUNE 20, 2015. COFFIN POINT, ST. HELENA ISLAND
A 9-year-old FortMill boy, was bitten by a shark at a secluded beach off St. HelenaIsland's Coffin Point Road. That injury was minor, the boy's mothersaid .The pair were standing in about a foot of murky water whenthe victim's son felt a bite and lept out of the water. Neither ofthem saw the offender, but two rows of small teeth marks on hiscalf suggest it was a baby shark. "We kept seeing little schools offish swimming around and hopping out of the water, and we werejoking, saying 'Where there's small fish, there's bigger fisheating them,” the victim's mother said.
JUNE 25, 2015. SOUTH BEACH, HUNTING ISLAND
A 43-year-old man wasbitten by a shark while swimming in the surf off Hunting IslandState Park about 11 a.m., which was one of two shark bites reportedin the area in the same week. He told officials the shark that bithim appeared to be about 10 inches in diameter.
OCT. 9, 2015.SHIPYARD BEACH, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
A 9-year-old Georgia girl wasboogie boarding in knee deep water in Shipyard Plantation on HiltonHead when she was attacked by what authorities believewas a shark. She suffered torn tendons and veins and was "bitten tothe bone” in her hand.
JUNE 18, 2017. BURKES BEACH, HILTON HEADISLAND
On June 18, 14-year-old Reagan Readnour, of Lewis Center,Ohio, was bitten while boogie boarding off in waist-deep water offBurkes Beach. Authorities believe either a blacktip or sandbarshark bit her. She had several laceration and puncture wounds onher thigh and foot from the bite.
JUNE 21, 2017. SOUTH FORESTBEACH, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
16-year-old Olivia Wallhauser was bittenby a shark on June 21 while swimming on South Forest Beach.Wallhauser believes she was swimming sometime before 6 p.m. Oliviatold the Island Packet she screamed loud enough for everyone aroundher to clear the water. She suffered minor wounds in her foot.
JULY28, 2017 SEA PINES BEACH, HILTON HEAD ISLAND
10-year-old JohnnySimatacolo was bitten in the foot by a small shark around 3 p.m.July 28. His parents thought he stepped on something at the time,but later confirmed with experts that a small shark, possiblyblacktip or Atlantic sharpnose bit the boy.