A SWIMMER has been viciously mauled by a shark as he attempted to climb back on his boat off the coast of Australia.
The 34-year-old was enjoying a dip off Hook Island when he was brutally set upon by the currently unidentified shark.
Medics have described him as lucky to be alive following the attack which occurred just after 6.30pm local time on Friday.
He was attempting to haul himself back onto his boat via a ladder when the sea beast repeatedly sunk its powerful jaws into his left leg.
The swimmer managed to escape and haul himself bleeding back up onto the boat where he was assisted by the crew and they called for help.
Sailing to nearby Hamilton Island, they stemmed the bleeding for 30 minutes before he was transferred to the care of paramedics.
The man, from Middlemount, was taken by a CQ Rescue helicopter to Mackay Base Hospital where he remains recovering from his ordeal.
He was described as in "good spirits" and "philosophical" about the attack.
Hook Island is known to be a popular prowling ground for tiger sharks – a species second only to the great white in terms of fatal attacks on humans.
Tiger sharks can grow to lengths of up 16ft 5in and have distinctive stripes down their body – from which the apex predators get their name.
However, the species of shark in this latest mauling as not yet been identified.
CQ Rescue officials said the swimmer did not see the shark coming and only realised what happened we he felt a "bump" against his leg.
And then he was savaged by the beast, which bit down into his thigh and shin – leaving deep lacerations.
Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) acting senior operational supervisor Julianne Ryalf said: "QAS received a call for assistance from a vessel approximately 45 minutes offshore.
"He had been bitten by a shark to the left leg, thigh and shin; the lacerations were deep enough to require stitches."
She added that bystanders did "excellently" to help the man until paramedics arrived on the scene, reports ABC.
"The patient was in really good condition … conscious, alert and in good condition," Ms Ryalf said.
Any sort of shark bite is taken very seriously, and the results can be quite serious
QAS official Peter Gleeson warned the situation could have been much worse and the victim was lucky to be alive and receiving "multiple bites".
He said: "Any sort of shark bite is taken very seriously, and the results can be quite serious.
"However, in this instance, it seems like the patient was very lucky indeed."
The medic warned the attack highlights the potential threat from sharks while swimming at sunset.
Mr Gleeson said: "It's well known that shark bites and shark feeding time is commonly at that time of day.
"So to say it was a contributing factor in the attack is reasonable.
"Shark attacks are an extremely rare occurrence."
However, previously it has been suggested the multiple bites may suggest a shark was attempting to prey on a human victim.
Shark attacks are normally single bites as the curious animals use their jaws to probe unusual things in their environment.
Maulings are also often a case of mistaken identity as they hunt for seals and other prey.
Dr Blake Chapman, a marine biologist who examined shark neuroscience for her PhD, told Guardian Australia last year that multiple bites may suggest something more.
She said: "In some of the cases this year it sounds like the shark hung around and bit more than once, which is unusual behaviour for great white sharks.
"When they bite more than once it’s more likely to be fatal as there’s more blood loss."
And two years ago, a Brit tourist lost his foot to a shark attack while he was snorkelling near Hook Island.
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