Shark Attacks Helicopter!?

Fake Shark Photo

Every now and then I get asked about this picture or it shows up in an e-mail. Here’s what the e-mail says:

AND YOU THINK YOUR HAVING A BAD DAY AT WORK !!Although this looks like a picture taken from a Hollywood movie, it is in fact a real photo, taken near the South African coast during a military exercise by the British Navy.It has been nominated by Geo as “THE photo of the year”.

So let’s take a look at the different elements of the picture and what we know about them.

The Helicopter is in actually a US Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk. Even more interestingly, on a US Air Force web site can find this picture associated with a fact sheet on the Pave Hawk.

Fake Shark PaveHawk
Ah, the story is starting to unravel.

What about the location of the picture? Is this South Africa? If you look at the picture, you will notice in the background a distinctive bridge of a redish color. From what we can see, it is obviously a very large bridge. In fact it is very famous. It’s turns out to be the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Fake Shark Bridge

The picture is very likely the 129th Rescue Wing of the California National Guard in training. They are based at the Moffett Federal Airfield on the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Their website included the picture below.

Fake Shark Original

Here’s another picture of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

So how does the shark fit in? Well perhaps this is where we find the only thread of truth in the story, however thin it may be. The picture of the shark was taken by Underwater Photographer Charles Maxwell. National Geographic’s web site contains the picture below and from the caption you can infer that it was taken off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

Fake Shark

The great white shark weighs about 1200 kg or over 2500 lbs. I asked a pilot friend of mine what would happen if a helicopter hovering no more than 12-15 feet off the water were suddenly pulled down on by a that much weight. He said that the helicopter would be underwater swimming with the shark. I’m sure that would have made the news . . .

What about the photo of the year? Yes, that seems to be made up as well…. At this point I don’t think you are suprised.

So there you have it, for those of you who ever wanted to know the anatomy of a hoax.


  1. edoz on April 13, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    lol, well, i was pretty sure it wasn’t a real photo, beacouse how could the man survive?

  2. peggy on May 8, 2007 at 4:27 am

    as i first throught it was real and was stun that it could happen but like u said im not surprised its fake i would like to say that i wish people wold not make these things up and why dont they go out shoot some real footage there no better then those who take pictures of actors and make a fake story up about it just to make alittle cash its stupid why dont just get a life but i also need to be honest it was pretty believeble (if thats a word) at first

  3. Kelly Marshall on January 19, 2008 at 7:12 am

    I looked at the photographer’s picture of the shark alone, and then the shot of the military exercise, and the first thing I noticed was the background in the picture of the shark alone and background in the picture of the shark with the helicopter. IN the individual shot of the shark photo, there is nothing but open sea…. not so in the other photo.

    If people feel the need to do something like this, try doing the research and proper techniques of photography. What a doofus.

  4. Nick Kempelmann on August 25, 2008 at 5:29 am

    hello there,
    yes , I was right I had big problems to believe that.
    I have been in cape town for a caple of years ago saw some great whites out of the cage, they were very shy.
    They would´n never jump out of the water when there is a heli so close to the surface.

    protec them ,they are worth it, and stop killing tigers for those silly reason

    greetings from sweden, and hopefully we´ll understand someday that we are not allone on this planet.

    Nick kempelmann

  5. Kyle Houston on September 9, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    This is a really cool photograph but the one thing that gets me is that they tried to make it sound as if they actually took that photo. Secondly they spent only like an hour looking for photos to use. So even more copyrighting and law breaking.

    I second that these animals should be protected and that this is true that this would never happen. But hey this photo is done really well and looks amazing, the creator should get a pat on the back for their work then be sent to jail for mislabeling it.

    This is just my view. It’s okay too not agree.

  6. Francis on March 21, 2009 at 5:08 am

    after a second look it is obviously a fake

    the water disturbed by the helicopter creates a hazy mist over all underneathe
    however, the shark does not!


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