Cape Town shark attack, was it the legendary “Submarine”?

Cape Town, South Africa – Many dont know about the Urban legend from the 70s and 80s about a great white shark the size of a submarine swimming in and around Cape Town. The shark was given the name “submarine” for obvious reasons.

During the last few years what first started as a hoax by journalists turned out to be more than a hoax as some claim.

Apparently the legend ( of a great white shark the size of a submarine ) started when a group of journalists got together at the also famous “Tavern of the Seas”, when they got in an argument about how easy it would be to fool the average newspaper reader. The story goes that they would post a fake eye witness account of a massive great white shark with a fake eye witness account. They would then see what happens.

After they started the hoax the phone lines were apparently jammed with the sightings of the shark.

While that might sound like the hoax got caught out and the entire event blew over, it is far from over. In the Strand area there was an old legendary photo near the old Rialto where they showed a great white shark that was caught not far out in sea. The shark looks almost like it is two storeys high as it hangs from the cable wire holding the caught shark. It was a true trophy and raised a lot of scares at the time. The exact date we are unsure of but memory recalls it to be in the 1940’s.

After that people started spotting sharks as well almost like the hoax but many claim that there really is the “submarine” dwelling our coasts. The “Submarine” was not the name given to the “Tavern of the Seas” hoax but the name came when a boat got attacked by what the witnesses called “A giant shark”.

Some go as far as to call the legend of the “Submarine” shark a Megalodon shark that could basically swallow people whole. The “Submarine” is not a hoax.

Here is another eye witness account of the “Submarine”

My father tells the story of when he and my uncle went out fishing in a row boat. While out near Seal Island they spotted a dark shadow under the water. The Submarine swam past their little boat right at the surface of the water and my Dad says that once he could no longer see the head, he turned and could not see the end of the tail which was still coming past the boat. Apparently my uncle, out of pure terror, rowed the boat to shore at such a speed that it looked like he had two outboard motors powering the boat! My uncle has not been in the sea since that day (nearly 40 years ago now)!


22 thoughts on “Cape Town shark attack, was it the legendary “Submarine”?

  1. Hi

    I am looking for eye witness accounts or people who have stories of family members seeing the “Submarine” or Megalodon shark off the coast of Cape Town.

    It is for a documentary series for the Discovery channel.

    If you are someone or know of someone please email me at


    1. Casting Director,

      Looking for “eye witness accounts or people who have stories of family members seeing the “Submarine” or Megalodon shark off the coast of Cape Town.”, for your “documentary”?

      How much are you paying for the story? If I am well compensated, I will be happy to provide my fish story for you…grin…

  2. megalodon could possibly still roam our oceans today but its highly unlikely but you never know what we will find. 95 % of the oceans are unexplored and we found animals that we thought were long gone. megalodon impossible no but is highly unlikely still roaming our oceans. its scary too think something that big still patrolling the oceans today

    1. The only suitable prey for a shark that big would be whales… if Meg was out there, people who hunt, study or watch whales would see them all the time – just as you’ll see great whites if you hang around a seal colony for awhile.

      1. maybe, but they are toothed whales that big or larger that eat seals, giant squid, rays and other sharks. Also most whale carcuses eventually sink. they could live in very depth water and rarely come to the surface.

  3. I would love to talk about my shark experience on camera….I can even provide a video recording of about 32 seconds of what appears to be a great white shark that was bigger than my boat.

  4. is the shark called submarine steel live . my grand father ones told me there was a shark off the cost of laebon in the medtrane sea the fin stood out the water 3feet at lees but my grand father has past was 5yrs ago to panracrick cancer

  5. in my opinion..the ocean is a vast undiscovered part of our earth..i would believe the existence of megladon or the 35ft great white (submarine) cruising the false bay coast..until a few decades ago the selacanth was regarded as extinct until it was found off natals coastal waters alive..i think seein is believing so if there is a 35 ft great white stalking our coast den surely our naval defense will know about the existense of it an im sure with the type of technology available it shud be easy to track this shark down jus because of its sheer size an if this shark is as samrt as they say it is then we in big trouble!!!

  6. Anonymous
    just to clarify …
    RAGGED TOOTH SHARKS don’t bite people !
    It’s probably the most relaxed shark in the sea.
    They might bite in defence but that’s about it.

    Sharks that are know to bite people (close to shore) are Bull Sharks (Zambezi), Tiger Sharks and ofcourse the occasional Great White Shark.

    Remember, sharks don’t have hands to feel if you are edible or not, they have a few rows of teeth, and that enquiry will most likely be fatal.

    If an old shark is hungry we humans make easy targets … unfortunately …

  7. Both Whale and Basking sharks are warm water fish, found up in Natal, they would never survive in the cold cape waters…..peasant !

  8. Submarine is still prowling our shores believe me, about 7 months back a mate & myself was on a dive just outside of the falsebay mouth doing some research on some coral. We noticed that it was dark all of a sudden that we saw submarine right above us & was not the first time we had an encounter with him/her. On this occasion it was scary because he came from nowhere & surprised us, none of us spotted submarine or any other white shark before or during the dive & we kaked holbricks as he cruised above us.
    I personally don’t believe that submarine would venture so close to shore, besides white sharks don’t really like human flesh as to their fellow bothers & sisters AKA the RAGGED TOOTHED SHARK & the BULL/ZAMBIZI SHARK I have spotted some bull sharks in falsebay recently which is strange to see them in that area & don’t know why they are hanging around here. Bull sharks are currently the No.1 attacker & known to come back for the victim to finish what he started as a white shark will either bump, taste or take a serious bite but moves on as we are not really on their menu.
    Would you not be pissed off if someone els came & pissed in your bath? Het Jou Katvis

  9. You know, every time someone says that white sharks don’t care to eat people, etc., my standard response is: SHIRLEY ANN DURDIN. (She was a 33-year-old mother of four who was in about six feet of water when an enormous white shark “appeared out of nowhere” and promptly bit her in half, then devoured the pieces. All of this occurred while her horrified husband and four children were on the beach.) There was no mistaken identity, bite-and-spit, etc. It was clearly feeding behavior. So I don’t believe that white sharks have any problem eating people. The reason most people survive white shark attacks is because help is relatively close; i.e., the victim is removed from the water before the shark can finish the job.

    This said, I think white sharks are the most beautiful shark alive today.

    As far as “Megalodon” stories go, perhaps you’re heard the story told by lobster fishermen back in the 1940s, when the seasoned seadogs returned to port as fast as their tub would go. Once on dry ground, the fishermen proceeded to the nearest bar, where – after several stiff drinks – they stammered out their experience. They’d been hauling in lobster crates (3 ft x 3 ft) when an enormous shark surfaced by their boat. The shark was swallowing the lobster crates whole (lobsters inside) and chomping its way up to the next one. They said the monster shark ate nine or ten crates while they watched. Apparently, the captain decided to cut his losses, and left the catch in the sea, in order to distract the shark while the boat retreated. Had this been one deckhand telling tales in a pub, that would be one thing. But we’re talking about more than a dozen fishermen who confirmed this occurrence.

    There are more mysteries under the sea than in all the heavens.

  10. About 11 or 12 years ago when I was paddling in hout bay in Cape Town it swam past me (I thought it was a cloud shadow or something). My uncle was a bit further up, seemed to panic and paddled to shore, then stood on the beach jumping and waving at me to go back to the shore. He told me he saw the biggest shark he’s ever seen in his life. The next day there was something in the newspapers about Submarine being trapped in a low tide in Hout Bay harbour.

  11. During my third tour in the country of Panama while serving in the army, I was sent to Fort sherman on the atlantic side of the Panama Canal. There was a secluded area by an old spanish fort name Port San laurenzo where the Ocean meats with the opening of the Shagress river. It was around 2:30 to 3:00 am in the morning while fishing by myself on the bank during a mostly cloudy evening, when something caught my attention about 500 feet to my front. I spotted what I thought was one of those surfboards with a sail on it that I beleive is called surf sailing pass slowly by me, then dissapeared in the darkness. Every so often the moon would break through the thick clouds which would momentarily give a clear view of the entire area to my front. I remember saying to myself that whoever was sail surfing this time of the night must be three sheets in the wind and just had too much to drink. About twenty minutes later I heard a huge splash in the water just up the river from me, and it was very loud. Seconds later a series of waves came rolling to the shore where i stood, as others passed by flanking the shore line. This was the first time I felt chills role up my spine in a long time, while wondering what the heck could of made that gigantic splash. As the water finaly settled I hung around for another thirty minutes trying my luck with the rod and real, but nothing seem to be taking the bait. I was still a bit on edge with the mystery in my head on what could have made that tremendous splash, then decided to just call it a night. As I reached down to pick up my small cooler the moon popped through the clouds right at that moment. I found myself frozed in place when i spotted that sail again but much closer about 300 feet to my front. This time I got a good glimps of it but I realized I was not a sail on a surfboard but a huge fin sticking out of the water. I watched it head out to opening of the river by the sea, and saw it dissapere under the water. I have been around the ocean quite a bit in my 58 years on this planet, and I know when I see a whale, dolphin, or shark. This fin must have been 5 feet in height from what I could calculate from where i stood, and it dragged above the water without submerging for the whole 30 to 40 seconds while I watched it. I told this story to three individuals later that day where I worked, and after one asked me how much had I been drinking I saw where this story was going. Two months later while eating nat a restaurant named the Tarpon Club, two female waitresses (Panamanian Born) told me they spotted a huge fin sticking out of the water about three years ago just behing the building while they were on break. The area was close to the Gatoon Dam where the Shagress river run up to. I asked the ladies if they could show me just wheren they spotted it and when I stood with them behind the building it had to be at least 1000 feet away from where they stood. For them to see a fin sticking out of the water from that distance told me, this had to be one very huge shark. My sighting happened in 1997, and I pretty much kept it to myself. Nobody believed me then, and I can almost bet that nobody woulod beleive me now.

  12. It went extinct 1.5 million years ago. Google it. From 1.5MYA until today, no teeth have been found in appropriately aged strata. The 10,000 years ago came from a single, incorrectly dated tooth. Unfortunately, we only find teeth because that’s the only part of a shark that can be preserved.

    Shame on Discovery channel for running this nonsense just to get ratings by taking a page of of Animal Planet’s playbook (ie. Mermaid, the body found).

  13. Actually the recently found a Megladon Tooth that carbon dated to 10,000 years ago. I can’t remeber where I seen that info, but I remember it as that would make it more likely they could possibly still exsist.

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