COURTESY ERIC VETTER AND CRAIG SMITH
This deep-sea shark, named Hexanchus griseus, is a massive six-gill shark that was filmed during a research dive off Molokai in 2006.
Big shark haunts the dark
Hawaii oceanography professors captured an 18-foot six-gill shark on video during a 2006 research submersible dive off Molokai.
The video was posted recently on YouTube and has received more than a 1,000 hits.
"Oh my God! It's huge!" said UH oceanography professor Jeff Drazen on the YouTube video. The video of the deep-sea shark, named Hexanchus griseus, estimated at 18 feet in length, was taken in August 2006 from Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's Pisces V submersible, anchored on the sea floor at a depth of more than 3,000 feet about two miles off Molokai.
"This was a really big Hexanchus. I don't know how many of these have been seen this size," said Eric Vetter, oceanography professor at Hawaii Pacific University, who was among a crew of oceanographers who observed the shark. Vetter and UH professors Craig Smith and Drazen were sitting in the dark in the submersible when Drazen said he felt the sub move. He asked sub pilot Max Cremer to turn on the lights when they observed the large creature glide across the porthole. As the creature came around again, the camera caught a full shot of the shark. "Oh whoa. His gill slits are probably 20 centimeters long. This guy's got a meter wide head! He's huge!" Drazen said on the video.
The red-colored laser dots shown in the video were used as a measuring device on the dive. "It was pretty spectacular," Drazen said yesterday.
The shark pushed the submersible about a meter from its original spot. The crew members -- working on a study on scavenger communities in submarine canyons -- said they believe the shark smelled the large chunk of ahi used as bait to attract scavengers such as eels, stingrays and small crustaceans or amphipods when it swam against the sub.
Vetter said: "The shark was probably about as long as the sub."
Little is known about the shark's population in the islands.
"We don't know anything about what they're doing here in Hawaii. They are found in other places in the world but there's really nothing known about them in Hawaii," Drazen added.
Of the shark species, Vetter said, "They're not uncommon, not to say they're common."
The crew, at first, was reluctant to post the video on YouTube but later agreed so that it would educate the public about Hawaii's deep ocean habitat.
"The goal is to develop visibility so that those people that are in the funding agency are aware of that and have a more positive opinion of our program," said Cremer.