THE sun was low, the surf was high and the sea at the southern end of Bondi Beach was teeming with baitfish about 8pm on Thursday night when a shark tore Glenn Orgias's left hand almost clean from his arm.
"The water was full of little fish and shredded pieces of jellyfish and it did feel a little ominous," said Andrew Johnstone, a surfer.
Mr Orgias, 33, arrived at St Vincent's Hospital with his left hand attached only by a sliver of skin after being mauled by the unidentified shark - the second attack in Sydney in two days.
Yesterday, his pregnant wife, Lisa, and father, Rick Orgias, stayed with other family and friends at the hospital for much of the day yesterday as doctors undertook a complex operation to reattach the hand.
The family did not want to comment, but passed on their gratitude, through a hospital spokesman, to the rescue crew and other surfers who witnessed the attack and dragged Mr Orgias to shore.
Down the hospital corridor, Able Seaman Paul Degelder, 31 - mauled by a shark in Sydney Harbour early on Wednesday morning during a navy training exercise - was in recovery after losing his right arm.
He left intensive care yesterday. Doctors would not say whether his leg would need to be amputated.
Both attacks fit the classic "test and reject" behaviour of sharks, who like to sample potential prey. On an online surfing forum yesterday surfers described seeing Mr Orgias screaming "Shark" and scrambling back onto his board.
"Looking back you could see a large amount of blood in the water and other surfers helping the victim out of the water," said Mick Marj, a surfer.
Helicopters scoured the coastline yesterday morning looking for the shark. Experts believe it was likely to have been a bronze whaler or bull shark, but they did not rule out the faint possibility it was a great white.
There are more sharks around Sydney than usual after an upwelling of cool water pushed marine life to shore.
Despite two attacks in two days, the NSW Government has been quick to dampen the fears of beachgoers.
The NSW Primary Industries Minister, Ian Macdonald, whose department is responsible for the shark meshing at 51 beaches, said the attacks happened in classic conditions.
"We have warned people repeatedly not to swim at dawn or at dusk," he said.
The attack at Bondi, which occurred despite the presence of two nets, sparked debate about the effectiveness of the shark meshing system. Only a third of Bondi Beach is protected by two nets on any given day. Some environmentalists and divers say they do more harm than good.
A review of the nets is due to be made public next month.