By Mindy Pennybaker, Honolulu Star Advertiser
The surprise arrival at the feast was big and regal and as wide as your grandmother’s hot rod Lincoln, and when she cruised onto the scene the other diners fled — as was only natural, for she was a great white shark, said Ocean Ramsey, who studies sharks, advocates for their conservation and leads educational, cage-free shark diving tours on Oahu’s North Shore.
On Jan. 15, Ramsey and her team had taken their dive boat to monitor tiger sharks feeding off a dead and decomposing sperm whale that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had towed 15 miles offshore from Sand Island, where it had lain against the shoreline, attracting sharks, when, to her astonishment, the female great white appeared.
“We saw a few tigers and then she came up and all the other sharks split, and she started brushing up against the boat,” Ramsey said in a phone interview that evening, her voice trembling with exhilaration and exhaustion after swimming with the shark all day. “She was just this big beautiful gentle giant wanting to use our boat as a scratching post. We went out at sunrise, and she stayed with us pretty much throughout the day.” …
One thing that surprised Ramsey was the presence of dolphins, who usually avoid great whites. “There were two rough-tooth dolphins escorting her, nudging on her fins, twirling around her nose. These guys wouldn’t leave her alone — they were having so much fun.”
She was especially thrilled because, based on the shark’s size and markings, she tentatively identified her as Deep Blue, a shark she has swum with on research trips to Guadalupe Island, Mexico. “I’m without words; it’s heartwarming; she’s probably the most gentle great white I’ve ever seen. Big pregnant females are actually the safest ones to be with, the biggest oldest ones, because they’ve seen it all — including us.” (Sharks only bite humans when they are curious or mistake people for their natural prey, she said.) “That’s why I kind of call her, like, a grandma shark.”
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