Incredible images of biggest great white shark on record
Is this the greatest of great white sharks ever captured on film?
Photographer Juan Oliphant snapped this incredible monster of the deep in the waters off Hawaii as she feasted on the carcass of a dead whale.
The largest reliably measured great white was caught off Western Australia in 1984. It measured 6m from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.
This beauty could be even bigger than that - though nobody has dared to actually take a tape measure to her. Yet.
University of Hawaii shark expert Dr Melanie Hutchinson told local radio KHON2 the animal could be as much as 6.5 metres in length.
The intimidating apex predator was first spotted at the weekend as divers explored the surrounds of a dead sperm whale which had been towed some 30km offshore after washing up on a Hawaii reef.
Photographer Juan Oliphant swam alongside the monster shark as he indulged in an 'all you can eat' feast on the rotting carcass.
"Today was extremely special because while I work with (great) white sharks all around the world they are extremely rare in Hawaii and this individual may be one of the largest recorded …," he says in a media statement.
"This gentle giant swam up and brushed up against our boat repeatedly. There is a theory that large females come here when they are possibly pregnant trailing whales."
It's not the first time 'Deep Blue' has been seen.
She has distinctive skin markings, such as the way the white colouration is patterned around the gills, the fins and tail. But she was also tagged when first found two decades ago.
Most recently, Deep Blue was seen some 4000km away, off Mexico, in July last year.
"About 20 per cent of the population from California and Mexico migrate here every year or every other year," Dr Hutchinson said.
But they're becoming less common every year.
"Shark populations around Hawaii are unfortunately declining and there are currently no laws to protect sharks from being killed for any reason other than only for their fins," Oliphant says.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Deep Blue, believed to be some 50 years old, is now a celebrity.
And with celebritydom comes the paparazzi.
A flurry of divers have been getting into the water to catch the perfect snap.
Deep Blue has taken all the attention in her stride. She should be used to it.
"My first reaction was just disbelief," diver Mark Mohler said. "She followed three tiger sharks in toward the whale carcass, and her sheer size made them look like barracudas."
Deep Blue starred in a 2014 Discovery Channel Shark Week documentary, and was captured sniffing out divers in cages off Mexico's Guadalupe Island in 2015.
Mohler, said in a Facebook post that there were at least three great whites hanging around the dead whale. Deep Blue made her appearance on Sunday.
But Deep Blue has attracted the usual controversy that comes with celebrity.
"The claim that she is the largest white shark in the world is just a Discovery Channel gimmick," president and executive director of the Marine Conservation Science Institute Michael Domeier told Motherboard. "Deep Blue has never been measured, so how could anyone make that statement?"
Oliphant says Deep Blue is just doing her thing, and should be let be.
"This is sharks role in the ecosystem, to pick off the dead, dying, weak, wounded, sick, injured, etc," he says. "I have so much respect for sharks for their ecological role, scientifically, culturally as aumakua, and from a conservation standpoint I've dedicated my life to speaking up for them and educating others about them and their plight while studying to continue to understand more about them."
Domeier also says he believes the shark is pregnant, and will likely give birth to a litter of pups in a few months time.
But how big is she, really?
Oliphant and his fellow divers put Deep Blue at 20ft by 8ft wide (6m by 2.5m). Other divers estimate Deep Blue to be 5.5m long - still a solid size, but somewhat short of the West Australian record.
"It's a big girl," Natural History's director for Shark Research George Burgess told Motherboard. "Looks like maybe 18 feet. Hyperbole is part of Shark Week so you gotta be worried about some of the facts."