An Australian crew has photographed what may be the largest great white shark ever seen, at an approximate length of 22 feet. The shark was spotted just 300 feet off the shore of Marino Bay, South Australia. The largest great white specimen on record is about 20 feet in length.
The photos were posted by the Shark Alerts South Australia Facebook on Jan. 17, and they’ve gone viral, sparking differing opinions. “Has the protection of the great white shark led to an [sic] population explosion of the species?” one user wrote.
Another user wrote, “Luckkkyyy we were out of the water by then.”
Added one: “Don’t really matter if it’s 4-5-6 or 7 meters. It’s a BIG shark!”
— The Independent (@Independent) January 18, 2016
While in the shark patrol helicopter, a member of the crew was able to take some photos of the shark. Although there is no hard evidence on the exact length of the big fish, the crew was able to compare it against one of their jet boats which was around 18 feet long.
“The size issue from photos like this is always challenging,” said Colin Simpfendorfer, a marine sciences professor at James Cook University, according to Sciencealert. “You can get a sense of its size, but measuring it to that sort of accuracy is always a challenge, particularly when there’s very little in the way of size reference in the picture.”
After the great white shark was spotted just off the shore, beachgoers evacuated the area as soon as the alert spread, and the helicopter was sent to shepherd the shark back out to sea.