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By Ben Kesslen
The images will stop you in your tracks — a woman in a wet suit and with a camera swimming side by side with a 20 foot great white shark.
Ocean Ramsey, the marine biologist in Hawaii who swam with the great white shark, said Friday on “Today” that she had no reason to be nervous. Ramsey said sharks like the 8 foot wide one she swam next to on Tuesday, “swim past surfers, swimmers, and divers all day every day.”
“It’s so rare that they ever make a mistake,” she said.
Ramsey has been studying great white sharks for over 10 years, and estimates the shark that became her swimming partner earlier this week weighs in at over two tons. She and her team were studying tiger sharks off the coast of Oahu, documenting the animals’ behavior, when they encountered the great white that would have sent most swimmers fearing for their life.
“We never would have imagined we would be fortunate enough to be graced with the presence of this massive, big, beautiful, female white shark” Ramsey said. “It fills my heart with joy and takes my breath away.”
The images from the scene are striking, to say the least. They went viral after Ramsey posted them on Instagram. In a video of the encounter, Ramsey is seen holding the shark’s fin while they swim in tandem. Seeing Ramsey next to the shark gives you a sense of just how massive the great white is.
Ramsey suspects the shark might be Deep Blue, a great white featured on the infamous show “Shark Week,” and is waiting for an species expert to confirm. She also thinks the shark might be pregnant.
Ramsey said she hopes her encounter will inspire others to take action to protect sharks. The World Wildlife fund currently classifies great white sharks are a “vulnerable” species.
“It’s just so sad that so many people out around the world seeing her would think monsters and want to kill her because of movies, like Jaws,” Ramsey said.
For all the joy the encounter brought her, “it kind of breaks my heart at the same time to be honest,” Ramsey said. “Moments like this are increasingly rare because shark populations are being wiped out for shark fin soup and shark finning.”