When four Canadian scuba divers headed out on their second dive of the day in a Pacific Ocean inlet in British Columbia, they were shocked to encounter a shark that has rarely been seen any shallower than 90m.
Divemaster Matteo Endrizzi described the group’s encounter with a juvenile bluntnose six-gill shark (Hexanchus griseus) on 27 May as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience”.
Alberni Inlet is a long, narrow body of water that cuts deep into Vancouver Island. Some 40 divers from the Nanaimo area had shown up for a day’s diving there, and the group of four were on their way down to investigate a shipwreck when the initial sighting occurred.
The group comprised Endrizzi, environmental technologist Garrett Clement, Danton West and Connor McTavish who, while at around 20m, excitedly shared the “shark” signal. Because he was the least-experienced diver in the group, however, his claim was mentally dismissed by the other divers.
Some 10 minutes passed, and the divers were along the side of the wreck at around 25m when West’s light caught the shark on the seabed below. The divers soon recognised it for the rarity it was.
Endrizzi and Clement, the former a little higher in the water, captured video footage of the six-gill shark from their different perspectives, and this was later posted on their YouTube channels (below). Both said that the 2m-long shark – adults can grow as long as 5m – appeared to be attracted by the divers’ lights.
“This mysterious species spends most of its time patrolling the bottom of the ocean,” said Clement later. “Encounters are incredibly rare; divers can go their entire career without catching a glimpse of this elusive creature.”
“This shark is super-rare to encounter as a diver because they normally live as deep as 2,500m,” said Endrizzi. The sharks are thought to venture above around 90m only when feeding at night. “On top of that, there is no record of a bluntnose six-gill shark ever in the Alberni Inlet!”
The divers were able to enjoy several minutes observing the shark: “This was a bucket-list event for me and many other divers, and I’m spoiled the encounter was as eventful as it was!” said Endrizzi. After the dive, the group notified Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO) of the unusual encounter.