During the dive, a great white shark about 20 feet long 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, and males grow to 11-13 feet, according to the Smithsonian.
Tuesday, during a 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.
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The encounter took place near a spot known as the Breakers Reef, a mile offshore of the Breakers Hotel on Palm Beach.
During the dive, a great white shark about 20 feet long 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, and males 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 its dorsal fin, so it was not tagged by OCEARCH, an organization that gathers ocean data.
Great white sharks are observed by divers once or twice a year off the coast of South Florida.
Many on the trip were thrilled by 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!!" Margaux Frankel wrote on her Facebook page.
"Only need two words to describe diving West Palm with Walker's Dive Charters today: Great White!" Jim Cocci 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.
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."
He was told by an expert the shark was probably a pregnant female. It was the first time Cocci 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.