Divers Just Got Breathtakingly Close to the Largest Known Great White Shark

Divers who regularly go swimming with sharks usually have nerves of steel, considering they're comfortable getting up close and personal with the ocean's apex predators. Occasionally, though, they find themselves in a situation that leaves them trembling, like a gang of brave scuba enthusiasts in Hawaii were earlier this week when they were approached by the biggest known great white shark on the planet

While on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-sanctioned trip to investigate a group of tiger sharks feeding on a dead sperm whale off Oahu on January 15, shark researcher Ocean Ramsey and her team were greeted by an enormous and unexpected visitor, a great white shark. This wasn't just an average great white, though, as Ramsey was struck by its sheer size, much bigger than most. In fact, she's almost certain it was a shark known as Deep Blue, the largest great white known to exist on the planet. And because Ramsey's a fearless pro, she not only got close, she touched her.

“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," Ramsey told the Star Advertiser in an interview. “She looks like she may be pregnant: She’s shockingly wide."

One of Ramsey's colleagues was able to snap some underwater photos of the whole encounter, which illustrate just how enormous Deep Blue really is. Ramsey told the Advertiser that she recognized her as Deep Blue because she'd seen her once before while on a research trip in Mexico. 

Deep Blue was reportedly also being escorted around by two rough-tooth dolphins, which Ramsey found surprising, since they typically avoid great whites. "These guys wouldn’t leave her alone -- they were having so much fun," she said.

While Ramsey doesn't recommend swimming cage-free with sharks if you're not experienced, she claims this was probably the safest scenario, considering. 

“I’m without words; it’s heartwarming; she’s probably the most gentle great white I’ve ever seen," she said. "Big pregnant females are actually the safest ones to be with, the biggest oldest ones, because they’ve seen it all -- including us.” 

There's a good reason you can't have this sort of up-close-and-personal experience with a great white in an aquarium. But if that sort of thing is on your bucket list, you do have plenty of options.

h/t Buzzfeed News

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.