Many people have reported encounters with the shark over the past thirty years or so but the story began as a hoax by journalists and then quite unexpectedly grew to have a life of its own and became an urban legend. The tales told about the animal provide an example of an urban legend that can be traced to its origins. The affair is very similar to the Great Wall of China hoax.
The shark has been reported from many parts of False Bay but is said to spend most of its time around Seal Island. (This is not an unreasonable thing for an obligate marine carnivore to do, as the island teems with Cape fur seals).
The fish is said to be so large it shows up on sonar. Reports of its length vary but figures of six to eight metres are quoted.
The results stunned everyone involved. The switchboards were immediately jammed with reports of sightings of the shark, or of the exact details of its markings and habits, or of its exact length.
This old story may have also provided the idea for the hoax "Helicopter Shark" image, a composition of two photographs that appeared to show a huge great white attacking a person on a ladder hanging from a helicopter. The writeup typically said it was from "near South Africa", although the helicopter shot was clearly taken from San Francisco Bay in California. The helicopter in the picture is a HH-60 Pave Hawk, a model that is flown by the California Air National Guard. Closer inspection also reveals two swimmers in the water under the helicopter.
In some variants it was also alleged to be a National Geographic Society photo of the year, so the Society went to some lengths to uncover the source photos, and wrote about the hoax in a 2005 issue of the National Geographic Magazine.