ROBINSON, James Derwin (1952-1994) [SS#548-88-9907], Santa Barbara urchin diver was killed by a great white shark while diving for urchins off Harris Point. The shark was estimated to be 16-18 feet long.
In the News~
December 10, 1994 [LAT]: “Shark Kills Skin Diver Off San Miguel Island : Death: Coast Guard officials believe a great white attacked James Robinson, who died of massive trauma.A diver scouting for sea urchins in the waters off San Miguel Island was killed Friday in an attack by what was believed to be a great white shark — the state's first confirmed death from a shark attack in nearly six years.
Veteran diver James Robinson, 42, was treading water near his boat when the shark swooped in for a swift attack about 70 miles from Ventura, west of the Channel Islands. Robinson had just finished a routine dive to scout for sea urchins and had deposited his equipment on board his boat. His two crew members were putting away the equipment when they heard Robinson scream — and whirled around to see him drifting unconscious in a gush of blood. "His right leg was nearly severed, and his left leg had puncture wounds on it," said Francis Oliver, a diver who came to Robinson's aid after hearing his crew mates' distress call. "It was pretty gruesome." A Santa Barbara resident, Robinson was attacked about 9:45 a.m. a half-mile off the coast of San Miguel Island.
Crew members on Robinson's boat, the Florentia Marie, tried to revive him but could not find a pulse. A Coast Guard helicopter rushed Robinson to Goleta Valley Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of massive trauma at 11:15 a.m. No one spotted the shark or witnessed the attack. But Coast Guard officials said they believed Robinson was targeted by a great white, a keen-eyed predator that can grow up to 20 feet long and can sink its serrated teeth through a surfer and surfboard in one mammoth bite. "They say it's like a bullet . . . you never see the one that hit you," said urchin diver Jeffery Gunning. "I just hope it went quick for Jimmy." Before entering the sea urchin business, Robinson had worked for years as a deep-sea diver for an offshore oil rig in the North Sea near the English Channel. After settling in Santa Barbara, he quickly absorbed the laid-back California lifestyle. Deeply tanned, with blond curly hair and an athletic build, Robinson loved surfing and diving — any activities that would keep him in the sun or in the water. Gracious and vivacious, Robinson was popular both in the harbor and in the neighborhood."He was one of the most likable people you could ever imagine," diving buddy Paul Kuhn said. "He always had a bunch of friends around him." Robinson spent hours helping a 10-year-old neighbor, Matthew Pappas, with a school project on sea urchins. And he routinely bailed out sailors or divers who encountered trouble on the ocean, friends said. "You always hear about the good dying young, and golly, this guy was just one of the best," longtime diver Steve Rebuck said. "He will really be missed."
All divers know that great white sharks haunt the waters around San Miguel Island, where they feast on seals and sea lions. But the ever-present threat has not deterred divers from prowling the ocean floor for pricey sea urchins, abalone and lobsters.