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Divers encounter deep-water shark in Alberni Inlet

At around 20 metres down, one of the divers motioned to his dive buddies that he had seen a big shark, but at first, no one believed him

Divers were in disbelief recently when they encountered a shark that normally lives at depths far below where they can go.

Matteo Endrizzi headed out from Nanaimo with some friends to the Alberni Inlet for a couple of dives on May 27.

On their second dive of the day to visit a wreck, one of the group members, Connor McTavish, spotted something around 20 metres down and motioned to his dive buddies that he had seen a big shark.

“He’s the one that has the least amount of dives out of all of us, so when he said there’s a big shark, none of us believed him,” Endrizzi said.

The others figured it was a lingcod or something similar.

They continued diving deeper, and at about 25 metres down, another diver, Danton West, saw what had excited McTavish. It was a bluntnose sixgill shark, a species that normally lives in extremely deep water.

Bluntnose sixgill sharks can grow up to 4.8 metres long, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They are dark brown or grey on top and have six gill slits on each side and two rows of teeth. They typically live in inlets at depths greater than 90 metres and can go up to 2,500 metres deep.

“My first thought was turning my camera on, otherwise no one’s going to believe us,” Endrizzi said.

The divers had a couple of minutes with the shark while it swam around them. It appeared to be attracted to their dive lights, because it swam towards Endrizzi’s light and then toward the light of another diver, Garrett Clement, who captured video of the encounter. 

The shark swam between the two lights for a bit, “and then went off into the black ocean,” Endrizzi said.

While it’s a bit challenging to communicate and express excitement underwater, the video Endrizzi took captures the group’s muffled cheers after the shark swam away.

The group decided to surface after the encounter, so they could properly celebrate the lucky sighting.

At the surface, another group of divers about to descend couldn’t believe they had seen a bluntnose sixgill shark, thinking they were mistaking it for something else. Endrizzi is grateful he captured the footage to prove it.

After diving for 12 years, it’s the first time Endrizzi has encountered this shark.

“It’s the biggest shark that we can see in our waters, or that we want to see, I guess,” said Endrizzi, who has dived around the world and has seen nurse sharks, bull sharks and great white sharks. “One of the reasons I enjoy diving here is you just never know what you’re gonna see when you get in the water.”

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