Crew members on an overnight fishing trip off the coast of Cape Cod were treated to an up close and personal encounter with the largest fish in the ocean: an almost 30-foot whale shark.
Nick Köeniger, a South Boston resident, was one of eight aboard the boat “The Wychmere” when the crew came face-to-face with what he called “the gentle giant.”
The crew was traveling to Hydrographer Canyon, located southeast of the Cape and Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The enormous whale shark, believed to be around 25 to 30 feet long, swam up to the boat just before 4 a.m. in the morning.
The boat was around 100 miles off the coast of the Cape when the whale shark appeared. According to Köeniger, the whale shark swam up to the boat numerous times before submerging itself back into the depths of the ocean.
However, the experience didn’t go undocumented. Köeniger and the crew were quick to get out their phones to take pictures and videos of the rare encounter.
Köeniger shared a video of the encounter with MassLive. He said the encounter was “totally surreal.”
“Especially to have it happen at 3:45 a.m. no less,” Köeniger said. “We have seen plenty of sharks while fishing but never anything like this! It was the length of a stretch limo.”
Whale Shark: Did You Know?
According to National Geographic, the whale shark is the largest fish in the sea, growing up to 40 feet or more, and weighing as much as 50,000 pounds. For perspective, that’s as large as a school bus.
The species is one of three known sharks that filter feed, similar to baleen whales. They mainly feed on plankton, tiny organisms in the ocean that are a vital source of food for many sea creatures. In order to eat, the whale sharks jut out their enormous mouth and passively filter everything in its path.
Whales sharks prefer warm waters and populate all tropical seas. A whale shark’s back and sides are gray to brown with white spots. They have pale horizontal and vertical stripes, and their belly is white.
The scientific name for these docile fish is rhincodon typus, and their life span is around 70 years. Sadly, their population is steadily decreasing and they’re listed as an endangered species.