Professional divers in Hawaii likely encountered the largest great white shark on record in January, researchers now say.
A group of divers in Oahu, Hawaii went under the waves to observe tiger sharks earlier this year. However, their now-viral journey found much more as they almost definitely ran into the largest great white shark known to man. According to a report by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the divers probably swam with Deep Blue, a massive shark who has been caught on camera before.
The dive was reportedly conducted to monitor a group of tiger sharks, who were feeding on the remains of a sperm whale just off of the coast. Thankfully, the divers brought underwater cameras along with them, because they soon ran into something much bigger.
Some of the witnesses spoke to reporters about their experience. They also shared their breath-taking photos on social media. Most importantly, they sent them out to marine wildlife experts, and corresponded with others who had seen Deep Blue before. The result was the aquatic equivalent of a celebrity sighting that has the world of oceanic research reeling.
Below are photos of the incredible shark-sighting, as well as the story of how the divers all but confirmed it was the one and only Deep Blue.
The massive great white shark was spotted on Tuesday, Jan. 15 when professional divers went down to observe tiger sharks feeding. It was a multi-day excursion including many people. One of the witnesses, Ocean Ramsey, told reporters that the predator was remarkably "gentle."
"I’m without words; it’s heartwarming; she’s probably the most gentle great white I’ve ever seen," Ramsey said.
The shark's length was estimated at 22 feet, and before long experts were comparing photos with past sightings of Deep Blue, believing that they were one and the same.
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Deep Blue, possibly the biggest White Shark identified at nearly 7 meters. While last spotted in Mexico, she came on a Hawaii all-you-can-eat vacation. Here, @hapakimberly drops to take some photos of her in front of a sperm whale carcass - notice all the chunks of whale and oil floating around. Kimberly was first to spot her on 13 January 2019, and Kimberly and I confirmed the ID with the white shark authority, @iphotographsharks this morning - thank you! Also present were @laurashark007, @meg_siren, @mitswerdna, @dannyrobertsphotos, plus Andrew and Daren. Thank you all for the surface support, surface photos and videos, and putting up with the smell ☺️ • • #deepblue #greatwhiteshark #greatwhite #whiteshark • • • • #natgeo #sonyimages #freediver #underwater #uwphoto #natgeowild #ocearch #ocean #freediving #sharkdiving #bestdayever #sonya7riii #bealpha #aloha #hawaii #oahu #unreal @ocearch #fearless #shark #sharks
One of the divers, Kimberly Jeffries, consulted with a research database to confirm whether their pictures really showed Deep Blue. What she found was encouraging, and soon the Marine Conservation Science Institute officially confirmed the sighting as well.
Shark photographer George Probst said that the shark was indeed Deep Blue, explaining that this could be confirmed by the counter-shading pattern on its body.
"That's as unique to a white shark as our fingerprints are," he told reporters.
Probst used several known images of Deep Blue to confirm the sighting, and found them conclusive.
"I was shocked," he said.
Deep Blue is believed to be about 50 years old. Before January, she was last seen in Mexico in 2013. At the time, she was photographed just off of the coast of Mexico's Guadalupe Island, and the footage went viral then too.
According to the Smithsonian, the average female great white shark is between 15 and 16 feet long, while the males are slightly smaller at 11 to 13 feet. Deep Blue may be as long as 22 feet — more than a quarter again longer than her average counterparts. She is also wider, and was probably pregnant during both of her most recent sightings.
In 2014, Discovery produced a feature on Deep Blue as part of shark week. The cable network compiled footage of Deep Blue's sightings and marveled at her enormous size. These images were included in Probst's comparisons when he verified the shark's identity in January.
"It was an absolutely breathtaking experience, and really quite humbling to be in the presence of this great shark," Jeffries told reporters. "She is an absolutely beautiful and magnificent being that both commands and deserves respect."
As noted above, experts believe Deep Blue was most likely pregnant both in January, and during her previous sighting in Mexico. Jeffries noted that it was a good sign for conservationists to see sharks like this reproducing consistently.
"Sharks of this size are quite rarely seen so it is unbelievably great news to know that other females are growing to a good size and reproducing," she said.
"If you asked me a few days ago what the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in Hawaiian waters the answer probably would be pretty different," Jeffries wrote on Facebook. "If you asked me yesterday the answer would be freediving with Deep Blue, a great white, the largest ever documented, who was last seen in 2013 in Mexico. If you asked me right now, it would be freediving with, interacting with and photographing not one but multiple, different great whites AND Deep Blue."