Death by Great White Shark – Pacific Grove, California is Number One ! (Update: Tied with Dunedin and Cotteslo)

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias), Credit: Wikipedia

While the local Chamber of Commerce doesn’t tout this Guiness-like natural phenomenon, Pacific Grove, California is a world leader for a town or city with the most number of people killed by Great White sharks.

Update 2019: While visiting New Zealand I discovered a town with resident Great White Sharks which has equaled this record: Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island. Three people are documented as dying from White Shark attacks off Dunedin’s beaches. (Sharks rarely attack people on land) All three deaths occurred in the 1960s (1964, 1967, 1968). However, the 1968 death was off Aramonana, some 25 kilometers from Dunedin City center at the mouth of the Otago channel, and it might have been a Whitetip shark instead of a Great White. That would make Dunedin and Pacific Grove even with two White Shark deaths each. There have been many more attacks near Dunedin which were not fatal. Dunedin still maintains a Shark Bell onshore so Surfers and waders can be alerted.

Update 2019: Cotteslo Beach (Perth, Western Australia) has also had two Great White Shark caused deaths: in November 2000, and October 2011. In 1925 a swimmer was killed there by a Tiger shark. This means we have a three-way tie for most deaths by Great White Shark: Cottelso in Western Oz; Dunedin, NZ;  and Pacific Grove.

1952: December 7
Swimmer Barry Wilson was savagely bitten by a Great White shark less than 100 feet from Pacific Grove’s Lover’s Point beach, a protected cove and popular family attraction. The shark was estimated at some 15 feet long. This is also California’s first recorded white shark fatality. Notably, Barry was inside the kelp forest.

1981: December 19
Surfer Lou Boren was bitten and killed by a Great White shark at Pacific Grove’s Asilomar Beach, a popular surfing and picnic beach on the open ocean. The shark was estimated at some 17-19 feet long.

Asilomar Beach

Asilomar Beach, Credit: Teresa Hanafin

So of the 35 deaths attributed to Great White Sharks along continental North America – two occurred in Pacific Grove. (1)

As far as we can determine – no other town in the world has had more than one person killed by a Great White shark. (And it seems that December might be a good time to try hiking instead.)

This is possibly misleading as some Counties or Boroughs may equal or exceed this. For example, two people were killed by a large shark in July 1916 within minutes of each other near New Jersey’s Matawan Borough – some 11 miles from the ocean ! (Though this may have been a Bull Shark – which is under appreciated as a terror.)

So as far as we can find out – more people have been killed by Great White Sharks in Pacific Grove than any other town in the world. (I write “in” because Pacific Grove is rather unusual in actually owning the underwater “land” where both attacks occurred.)

For more information, see —

Survived Attacks: There are more divers and surfers who have been attacked and lived. See —
Expert goes to extreme to portray great white sharks in positive light

Shark Attack Map, July 2012 (Warning – this is not a complete list and some locations are miles from the actual event)


  1. This does not include the harm to the town caused by Chamber of Commerce head Mo Ammar – who, despite popular opinion, is NOT technically a Great White Shark.
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4 Responses to Death by Great White Shark – Pacific Grove, California is Number One ! (Update: Tied with Dunedin and Cotteslo)

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  2. Kathy says:

    It’s got to be Australia now.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thank you posting this I was born and raised in Monterey CA This bay is dangerous even now. I now northern Nevada. I don’t miss much except running Del Monte Beach and the path in Pacific Grove. One thing I would NEVER do is go into that water. I’ve seen three great whites jump out on different occasions hunting seals. Seals running on shore getting away from then and they can be aggressive too. My parents just got back from Monterey dad still does plumbing down there. They were at that beach four days ago and were chased up in the dune area on Del Monte by a large seal in fear.

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