FOR half an hour on New Year’s Day the ocean at Bondi Beach was empty of swimmers.
Thousands stood frozen on the sand and stared out to sea as helicopters and patrol boats scanned the coastline for a shark.
In waters just off the beach on Tuesday afternoon lifeguards doing routine surveillance thought they saw a ‘‘large shark’’, a Surf Life Saving NSW spokeswoman said.
At about 4.15pm the shark siren sounded and thousands scurried to the shore. The beach was packed as thousands made the most of the hot start to 2013 on the New Year’s Day public holiday.
Dramatic photographs and somewhat hysterical reactions were posted on Twitter. Zoe Pruckl, who was visiting from Calgary, tweeted: ‘‘Felt like I was on the set of Jaws today when a shark decided to come make an appearance at Bondi Beach’’.
Shark alarms are a normal part of Sydney summers so if the Bondi reaction was a touch madder than usual it was probably due to reports in recent days of a juvenile great white displaying Jaws-esque behaviour on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Lifeguards believe a 2.5 metre white shark returned to roam waters off Dee Why and Long Reef beaches after taking a chunk out of a lifeguard’s surfboard on Sunday. The shark had displayed unusual behaviour when, after ramming the surfer at Dee Why, it refused to budge as guards on patrol boats and jet skis tried to herd it out to sea.
If there was a shark at Bondi it got away quick enough to evade a twenty minute search by a Westpac helicopter.
The patrol turned up nothing and less than half an hour after the alarm swimmers were told they could get back in the water, a Surf Life Saving NSW spokeswoman said.
But few were chancing it. The bravest trod about in only the shallowest waters, while most stayed on the sand and continued staring out to sea, as if they might find something the helicopters missed.
with Ilya Gridneff