The photo, taken at Queenscliff on the Northern Beaches on Wednesday morning, focuses on a lone surfer paddling in on his board at sunrise followed by a large fin. The caption alongside the images states that it was “quite the eventful day!”
“This anxiety-inducing shot was captured by Sprout Daily at Queenscliff and we’re guessing this surfer might have wet his wetsuit,” Northern Beaches Living (NBL), a local media outlet wrote to its 5,000 Facebook followers. “More on the NBL Instagram.”
Post sparks panic
The post sent some local users users into a panic. “Wow, that’s a great white fin for sure,” one person wrote. “Oh gosh, so frightening,” another claimed.
But clicking through to the Instagram page, and through to the original source Sprout Daily, revealed what was really in the water.
“Shark? Nah just a dolphin wearing a shark fin,” the photographer's caption read. “Beautiful sunrise with wispy clouds and a pod of dolphins cruising the line up at Queenscliff.”
Also shared was another photo showing a pod of dolphins enjoying the water at Sunrise. While a surfer who was in the water at the time that the photo was taken also backed up the claim. “I was there and surfing next to them, it was a pod of dolphins!” he wrote. “Great shot and clickbait though!”
Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Sprout Daily said that while the fin “did look kind of sharky” there was a whole pack of dolphins.
The confirmation that a shark wasn’t lurking off Queenscliff was all some locals needed to accuse Northern Beaches Living — who did concede in a similar post on Instagram that “it was just a dolphin” — of fearmongering on Facebook.
“The post from Sprout Social says it’s a dolphin,” one woman wrote. “I don’t understand why you would unnecessarily cause people to be worried by not mentioning that.” Another user agreed. “100 per cent, just stupid,” they said.
In responding to a request for comment, Northern Beaches Living said “of course, Northern Beaches Living admin knew it was a dolphin” having shared the original post from Sprout Daily. “But the post wasn't about whether it was a shark or a dolphin, it was about how the surfer was likely to feel seeing this fin pop up next to him.
“If one person was 'unnecessarily worried' by this image, they might be best staying out of the water because as everyone on the Northern Beaches knows, we share our ocean with lots of incredible creatures and it just as easily could have been a shark,” the publication told Yahoo News Australia.
History of shark sightings
The incident comes four years after a man was injured in a suspected shark attack off Manly Beach, 12 kilometres south of Queenscliff. The swimmer in his 40s, known as Pete, was left with cuts to his body and leg following the attack in July, 2019. His friends said he was a strong swimmer, having swum the English Channel the year before, and was the only one in the group of swimmers to set off without a cycling light on his head.
While in March this year, swimmers at Manly were evacuated from the water after a bull shark was spotted in the area. In vision of the incident, people can be seen piling onto a surf lifesaver jet ski after the alarm sounded.
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