Tuesday, during a dive charter trip on Walker’s Dive Charters out of Riviera Beach, Florida, a group of scuba divers encountered a once-in-a-lifetime experience — a great white shark.
The encounter took place near a spot known as The Breakers Reef, a location just one mile offshore of the famous Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach.
During the dive, an estimated 20-foot-long great white shark slowly drifted by near the bottom, enabling divers to get photos and brief video.
On average, female great white sharks measure 15-16 feet in length, while males tend to grow to 11-13 feet, according to the Smithsonian.
There was pretty good visibility during the dive, so it was easy for divers to get photos and video without spooking the shark. The shark had no visible satellite tag affixed to it’s dorsal fin so it was not a shark tagged by OCEARCH.
Want to be an astronaut?:NASA will accept applications soon
Great white shark Ironbound pings off Florida:Could be making its way to Gulf of Mexico
Great white sharks are being observed by divers once or twice a year off the coast of South Florida.
Many on the trip were thrilled with the encounter.
“Today all of my dreams came true and I got to hang out on the reef with a Great White Shark!!! Best Day ever!!” wrote Margaux Frankel on her Facebook page.
Diver Jim Cocci echoed her excitement.
“Only need two words to describe diving West Palm with Walker’s Dive Charters today: Great White!” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Last year, a group of spearfishermen saw one in 80 feet of water off Jupiter. OCEARCH tagged sharks ping off the coast of Florida each winter as they make their way into the Gulf of Mexico.
‘They were bouncing off the walls’
Capt. Bill Walker of Walker’s Dive Charters said the great white shark sighting was the first for one of his charters in 27 years of operation. There were 11 divers on the trip and all were able to get a glimpse of the big shark.
“When they surfaced, they were bouncing off the walls,” Walker said. He said the divers were in 55 feet of water. It was the second dive of the day. The first was offshore of Mar-A-Lago.
Walker received a radio call from another boat which had seen the shark. When his divers surfaced, Walker piloted the dive boat to the location.
Cocci, 76, was the first on the transom. He didn’t want another diver to spook the shark, if it was even there.
“I dropped in and of course, no shark,” said Cocci who has been a certified diver for 52 years. “The group was drifting north with the current. The visibility was not that good, it was kind of hazy.”
Another diver alerted Cocci to the appearance of the big shark.
“I looked down and it was about 10 feet in front of him,” Cocci said. “It appeared out of the dark blue haze like an apparition — and it was massive.”
As it swam by, Cocci noticed its size. He was later told by an expert it was likely a pregnant female. It was the first time Cocci had ever dived with a great white shark.
“The shark had no interest in anybody,” Cocci said. “She came back two more times and that enabled me to get the video. I had to swim my butt off to try to keep up with her.”
Cocci is retired but posts his videos and photos on his website at Jcocci.com.
Walker said this time of year, his charters generally see bull sharks, lemon sharks and nurse sharks, along with an occasional hammerhead. Mutton snapper, large stingrays, spotted eagle rays and moray eels are also common.
What to do if you spot a white shark
The team from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Shark Research Program is working to identify the shark. Over the years, the program has developed a database to identify white sharks based on distinctive markings, scars and coloration.
If anyone encounters a great white shark and has good quality photos and video, the program can be contacted at [email protected] or by tagging these social media handles:
Follow reporter Ed Killer on Twitter @tcpalmekiller
Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY
In wake of 737 Max crashes:Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft under extra scrutiny
Florida dolphin killings:$20K reward offered after shootings