A Hawaii-based photographer was astonished Friday to spot a 15-foot great white shark swimming toward him off Kona on the Big Island.
Deron Verbeck told FTW Outdoors that he was freediving and first spotted the shark about 100 feet below the surface. “But she turned and came up into about 30 feet when I got all the shots and video,” he said.
The accompanying video shows the shark’s close approach as Verbeck captures video footage with a GoPro while also shooting stills. (Video is best viewed with volume.)
Great white shark sightings are rare in Hawaii, but adult white sharks from Mexico and California seasonally visit island waters.
After the encounter, Verbeck joked on Facebook: “Well check this one off the list of things ‘I shouldn’t have been swimming with.’ My first ever GREAT WHITE SHARK! And it happened to be in Kona and a 5-minute drive from my house!”
The renowned freediver told KHON 2 that he first thought he had spotted a tiger shark but quickly recognized the classic shape of a large female white shark.
“It just kept getting bigger and bigger and I was like, ‘That is for sure, 100% a great white,’ ” Verbeck said. “And I just shot as much as I could as she went by, and she just disappeared back off the drop, then I was just shaking like, ‘Woah! That was insane!’ ”
The shark, although inquisitive, did not seem to regard Verbeck as prey.
Carl Meyer of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology told KHON 2 that white sharks might be attracted to island waters by the seasonal abundance of humpback whales. (White sharks are known to feast on whale carcasses.)
Michael Domeier of the Marine Conservation Science Institute stated on Instagram that “after a quick scan” the shark did not match any of the nearly 400 white sharks in the photo-identification catalog from Mexico’s Guadalupe Island.
Deep Blue, said by some to be the largest great white shark ever documented, measuring about 20 feet, is in the Guadalupe Island database and has been spotted in Hawaiian waters.
Domeier said his research team suspects that “this beautiful female is from the Central California Tribe or Pt. Conception Tribe” of white sharks.
Domeier stated that the shark “was spotted literally right in front of my house. This is the stuff that gets me out of bed in the morning with a smile!”
Verbeck is an award-winning photographer who specializes in shooting while freediving, or on a single breath without scuba gear. Many of his photos are shared via Instagram.