Fake News: Greenpeace Activist Did NOT Get Arm Bitten Off After Hugging White Shark

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk

You may have read the incredible story about Darrell Waterford from Eugene, Oregon, a 21-year old Greenpeace activist who supposedly got his arm bitten off by a shark somewhere in the waters of the Indian Ocean about 100 miles from Perth. It is all fake and none of it happened for real.

The story originated on satirical website World News Daily Report where it was posted under the title "Greenpeace activist gets arm bitten off after hugging a white shark" (archive here). The article opened:

An environmental activist was almost killed Yesterday in the Indian Ocean, after the great white shark he was trying to hug suddenly attacked him and bit his arm off.

21-year old Darrell Waterford, from Eugene in Oregon, was participating in a promotional video for Greenpeace, some 100 nautical miles away from the Australian city of Perth.

It goes on to describe the shooting of the promo video, with Mr. Waterford supposedly swimming with a group of sharks for about half an hour. Then the incident happened:

Unfortunately for the young American, one of the sharks suddenly became aggressive after being hugged and suddenly attacked him.

It attacked Mr. Waterford and tore off his right arm right below the elbow. The young man lost a large amount of blood, but was able to get out of the water and was rapidly taken to the hospital.

The story also mentions one "Huei Li Chong", the leader of the expedition, who supposedly spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to describe what happened. We were unable to locate any trace of such an interview taking place.

Furthermore the picture of the man in a hospital bed that was used to illustrate the story is actually from 2012 and shows Kaleb "Fred" Langdale who was the victim of an alligator attack in Florida. The "Huei Li Chong" picture is actually a real Greenpeace activist but his name is "Tom Wang" according to the website of Greenpeace.


The website World News Daily Report is a well known hoax website specialized in posting hoaxes and made up stories. The disclaimer on their website is pretty clear about that even though you have to scroll all the way down the page to find it:

World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website - even those based on real people - are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.

It is run by Janick Murray-Hall and Olivier Legault, who also run the satirical Journal de Mourréal, a satirical site spoofing the (real) Journal de Montéal.

Stories from the site frequently get copied by fake news websites omitting the satire disclaimer and presenting the article as something that really happened. In this case that hasn't happened yet and the article also hasn't been contradicted by other fact checking sites like Snopes yet but we expect that to happen shortly. Personally we think sites copying stories from other websites should at least have the decency to put in a link to the original source. What do you think?

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  Maarten Schenk

Maarten Schenk is the co-founder and COO/CTO of Lead Stories and an expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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