With Shark Week 2019 quickly approaching, marine life enthusiasts are getting excited about a story from earlier this year in which one of the world's most famous great white sharks, named Deep Blue, was spotted feasting on the corpse of a sperm whale.
Hawaii-based nature and wildlife photographer Kimberly Jeffries set up camp nearby the whale's corpse in hope of capturing footage of nearby predators looking for an easy snack. Set up just a couple miles southwest of Waikiki, Hawaii, Jeffries saw the massive great white shark just tens of feet below her in the water. For three days, Jeffries and her colleagues documented the spectacle from a respectful distance, as two more mature female white sharks followed their noses to the spot as well.
"It was one of those rare weeks where there's no wind; there's no swells," Jeffries told the National Geographic. The calm waters meant excellent conditions for underwater viewing, including photos and video, of Deep Blue and the other great whites feeding, offering a rare glimpse into the lives of these top predators.
The famous Deep Blue is one of the largest great white sharks ever caught on film; in fact, most female great whites average 15 to 16 feet, but Deep Blue stretches some 20 feet from tip to tail. She hadn't been spotted since 2013, when she was seen off the western coast of Mexico's Baja California, near Guadalupe Island — where sharks gather at certain points of the year, likely to mate.
The sighting in January is unusual not just because of Deep Blue, who can be identified by markings between her gray backside and white belly, but because female sharks typically seem to be mostly solitary creatures. Plus, although they do typically visit Hawaii, scientists do not think that they live there. It led scientists to wonder if more females are "hanging around the Hawaiian Islands than we know about."
"Maybe we just don't know they're there and this just provided a rare opportunity to see them," said Christopher Lowe, director of the shark lab at California State University in Long Beach.
Deep Blue's sheer size prompted observers to wonder if she was pregnant, although it's tough to say without testing her blood for hormone levels. People wondered the same thing in 2013 when she was spotted near Guadalupe Island. But one fact that could debunk the pregnancy theory is that female white sharks don't return to Guadalupe when they're pregnant, according to Nicole Nasby Lucas, a biologist at the Marine Conservation Science Institute and who studies Guadalupe's white sharks. In fact, all evidence suggests that female white sharks go to Guadalupe to mate.
Lowe said that the pregnancy question in Deep Blue's latest sighting is further complicated by her voracious appetite, and that her pudgy belly could just be similar to what humans experience after a particularly large meal, not unlike Thanksgiving Dinner. "When they gorge themselves on these whales, they literally get these kind of Buddha bellies," he said.0comments
But since it's common for pregnant great whites to forage for food offshore, Nasby Lucas said the "odds are she probably is [pregnant]."
If that's the case, certainly no one would blame Deep Blue for craving a little extra grub.