Rare 15-foot great white shark comes within feet of diver off Hawaii coast, video shows

·3 min read

A diver is recounting his close encounter with a great white shark.

Deron Verbeck was free diving off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island on Nov. 26 when he spotted a rare 15-foot great white shark “about 100 feet below the surface,” he told USA Today’s FTW Outdoors.

The great white then turned “and came up into about 30 feet when I got all the shots and video,” Verbeck told the outlet.

He first set out to record fish in slow motion with his GoPro, he wrote on Facebook, but the waters instead revealed a more startling surprise.

‘Mind blown’

Verbeck told KHON2 that he thought the looming predator may have been a tiger shark, but “it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I was like, ‘that is for sure 100% a great white.”

Verbeck said the shark didn’t see him as prey, so he kept filming, according to WOFL.

“Well check this one off the list of things I have and probably shouldn’t have been swimming with,” he posted on Facebook after the rare sighting. “My first ever GREAT WHITE SHARK!!! And it happen(ed) to be in Kona and a 5 min drive from my house!!!... MIND BLOWN!!!”

Michael Domeier, president of the Marine Conservation Science Institute, said he and a colleague compared “the pigment patterns” of Verbeck’s sighting with nearly 400 sharks in their photo-identification database from Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and came up short with a match.

Domeier said on Instagram that he and his team believe “this beautiful female is from the Central California Tribe or Pt. Conception Tribe” of white sharks.

Large sharks and where they travel

The institute’s database is the very same one that in 2019 identified Deep Blue — one of the largest great white sharks ever documented on camera at about 20 feet long, according to KABC-TV.

“The biggest great white sharks can reach up to 20 feet long, but most are smaller,” according to the Smithsonian Institution. “The average female is 15-16 feet long, while males reach 11-13 feet.”

They are mostly found near South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the North Atlantic and Northeastern Pacific, according to Oceana.

The ones off the U.S. West Coast “are an isolated population” that migrate to California and Guadalupe Island, about “150 miles off the west coast of Baja California, Mexico,” according to the ocean conservation organization.

Although great whites spend about six months out of the year in these areas, they “make impressive migrations far offshore near the Pacific Gyre,” known as the “white shark café,” the nonprofit reported.

They rarely migrate to the Hawaiian archipelago — and scientists are only starting to have a better understanding of why, Oceana said.

Attacks are rare

Great white shark attacks are rare — with experts from University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File documenting “at least 16 unprovoked bites in 2020, including six of the year’s 10 fatalities.”

There were four great white shark deaths in Australia and one in California and Maine in 2020, data shows. Two additional deaths were from tiger shark bites and two were unidentified.

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