Hoaxes & Rumors

Classic Fake Photo: Shark Attacking Helicopter

Classic Fake Photo: Shark Attacking Helicopter

An image showing a shark jumping out of the water in an apparent attack on military personnel in a helicopter is one of the internet’s oldest viral fake photos.

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Fake Photo

Reminiscent of the movie JAWS, the shark in this image can be seen jumping out of the water in an apparent attack on a Pave Hawk helicopter.

This composite photo first appeared in 2001, and is considered one of the first viral internet hoax photos. It combines two images – a helicopter and a shark – to create this shocking, and fake, photo. It quickly circulated worldwide via email with a following description:


Although this looks like a picture taken from a Hollywood movie, it is in fact a real photo, taken near the South African coast during a military exercise by the British Navy.

It has been nominated by National Geographic as “THE photo of the year.”

The photo has seen a resurgence in recent years due to sharing on social media sites such as Facebook and Google+, which didn’t exist when the fake image originally circulated.

Original Helicopter Photo

The image of the helicopter shows a rescue training session in San Francisco Bay, as evidenced by the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. It was snapped by USAF photographer Lance Cheung. The original photo is below:


Original Shark Photo

The image of the shark jumping out of the water was taken in False Bay, South Africa by photographer Charles Maxwell. Here is the original:


Maxwell was interviewed by National Geographic regarding the fake photo, and responded, “I’d like to make contact with the person who did this—not to get him or her into trouble, but because it’s a lot of fun and it is a good job,” Maxwell said. “However, I must make clear that I would not like to see this happen to one of my photographs again. It is wrong to take images from a Web site without permission.”

The infamous Helicopter Shark photo has its own Wikipedia page and was covered by National Geographic, which was mentioned in the phony caption.

Bottom Line

The image of a shark jumping out of the water to attack a helicopter is classic fake photo. It has circulated for over 10 years, and is considered one of the internet’s earliest viral fake photos.

Updated August 10, 2015
Originally published August 2013

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