People in Hawaii were mesmerized by the sight of a decaying whale surrounded by tiger sharks last week ― until a celebrity crashed the party.
Deep Blue, considered one of the biggest great white sharks ever caught on camera, was spotted on Sunday off the southern coast of Oahu where other sharks have been feeding on the carcass of a dead sperm whale.
Some experts estimate that Deep Blue is over 50 years old.
At an estimated 15 to 20 feet long, Blue’s sheer size captivated divers and underwater photographers who were swimming around the carcass on Sunday.
The shark dwarfed Kimberly Jeffries, a Hawaii-based wildlife photographer who is 5 feet, 1 inch. Jeffries said she was by the carcass on Sunday to check out what kind of wildlife it had attracted. Deep Blue stopped by for a bite, and Jeffries filmed her as she munched on the dead whale.
Jeffries described the scene with one word: “Breathtaking.”
While these types of shark sightings are rare, great white sharks are no strangers to Hawaiian waters.
“White sharks are not uncommon in Hawaii,” Kim Holland, a shark researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, told HuffPost in an email.
Melanie Hutchinson, who also works at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, told KHON2 that 20 percent of the great white shark population in California and Mexico migrates to Hawaii nearly every year, typically in the winter.
Deep Blue, however, is an especially notable shark.
The pudgy shark became an overnight sensation after she was featured on an episode of “Jaws Strikes Back” for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week in 2014. In that episode, researchers suggested that Deep Blue could be over 20 feet long, though some researchers have since expressed that that measurement may have been exaggerated. Though she is a hefty animal, she is not the biggest great white shark in the world, according to Holland.
Deep Blue got an extra popularity boost on Sunday.
Shark activist and Instagram influencer Ocean Ramsey had an impromptu photo shoot with the apex predator and shared the footage with over half a million followers.
Ramsey, who frequently dives with sharks and runs a shark tour in Oahu, called Deep Blue “the gentlest grandma great #white shark” she’s ever met.
But not everyone was thrilled with Ramsey’s photos. David Shiffman, a marine biologist who specializes in shark research, accused Ramsey of trying to “grab” and “ride a free-swimming animal.”
For her part, Ramsey warned her fans against re-enacting her photo opp.
“I do not encourage people to do this,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’ve been working with sharks for over 15 years, over 30 species including white sharks all around the world.”
Ramsey did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment.