OUR OCEANS

Footage captures great white swimming above Key Largo's Duane

Large shark appears to check out divers two times

dgoodhue@keysreporter.comAugust 15, 2013 

A still shot of a video taken by Shawn Dickens shows a great white shark swimming above the wreck of the Duane off Key Largo. (Photo by Shawn Dickens)

A YouTube video that shows a great white shark patrolling the water above the wreck of the Duane off Key Largo is generating a lot of buzz around the dive community.

The video, shot the afternoon of July 27, was posted as charter boat fishing captains are reporting more frequent sightings of great whites off the Keys.

Great white sharks are very rare in Keys waters, and what makes the video even more unique is that it was shot smack in the middle of summer when water temperatures are well into the 80s. The large predators are thought to mostly frequent colder coastal waters off areas like northern California and New England in the United States and Australia and South Africa across the globe.

“Wow, just incredible,” Neil Hammerschlag, director of the University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, said in an e-mail after seeing the video.

The footage was shot by Shawn Dickens, a 36-year-old diver from Melbourne. He was doing a checkout dive after not going underwater for 11 months. He was with his aunt and uncle, Terry and Ginny Witt.

A little more than a minute into the video as Dickens and the Witts descend down the rope attached to the 327-foot sunken Coast Guard cutter, Dickens pans his camera to the left. At first a blurry white shape appears in the distance. But soon the shark appears clearly, slowly swimming to get a closer look at the divers.

What was going through Dickens’ head when the shark appeared?

“I’m not exactly sure about my aunt and uncle, but I was going ‘hell yeah, this is going to be a great first dive video on the GoPro,’” Dickens said, referring to his GoPro HD Hero 3 Black Edition.

The Duane is about six miles off Key Largo. The average depth of the ship is about 95 feet below the surface, with a maximum depth of 130 feet, according to Divespot.com.

About two minutes later, the three divers are at the ship’s smokestack. As the camera sweeps to the right, the viewer sees the shark followed the divers down to the sunken vessel. The shark then slowly glides away and disappears into the depths.

Dickens said that was his first encounter with a great white since he began diving in 2002.

“That is the first time I’ve seen one on a dive,” he said. “Probably the first time seeing one not on TV.”

“We were talking after the dive about the fact that we aren’t sure if anyone else we know would be able to stay calm.”

However, this being South Florida, this was not the first time Dickens saw sharks during a dive, and specifically not the first time he saw them on the Duane. But nothing compares to the great white encounter.

“We’ve had a dive in the past on the Duane where two large bull sharks swam right at us the same way,” said Dickens. “But the two of them together had nothing on the intimidation factor of this one.”

See the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owbFQWijMqI#at=128.

Follow David Goodhue on Twitter @DavidGoodhue.

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