Friday, October 23, 2009

Big Blue! - The Giant Blue Shark of Hawaii

For the first time in Hawaii, I've got a good opportunity to work with a blue shark, Prionace glauca, underwater for a long period of time. "Blue shark, in Hawaii?" Yes, it is very rare to see a blue shark around Hawaiian waters as the shark normally prefers a lot colder water like California Coast. This was the second time for me to even see one in over a decade of boating in Hawaii. Last time I saw, it didn't stick around and I had no chance of interacting with it.

El Nino might have been something to do with the water temperature in Hawaii this year, but it was actually quite high that day, or I should say it was unusually warm for Hawaii. So, encountering a blue shark was least expected. It was a huge surprise, but of course in a good way.

blue shark, Prionace glauca, large female, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

It was a large female blue shark. At least, she was 10 foot long. I quickly rigged my camera and slipped into the water with caution. I knew that a shark of this size usually do not afraid of anything. As anticipated, she swam straight at me and bumped into my dome port. Not just once. Twice or three times in a row. She was aggressive. Persistently she tried to bite my metal housing and Yamaha outboard engines as those metal parts fooled her sensors (photo tip: you should have a shiny metal housing to attract sharks! Acrylic housings won't do!).

blue shark, Prionace glauca, large female, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Haven't seen many aggressive sharks as much as this one since I dove with a 14 foot tiger shark in Bahamas, so I've got a little scared about the situation I was in. She was overly pushy and hostile. I really felt a danger of getting bitten. I was ducking, swaying, jumping underwater as she tried to check me out from various directions. I had to fend off her using my underwater camera several times. However, the adrenaline was pumping into my body & brain, at the same time, I was exhilarated. Shark shooting is fun! It can be extremely dangerous, but brings me such excitement and thrills that cannot be replaced by anything else. It's an extreme sport.

She was one of a kind. Pointy noese, long slender but streamlined body with huge black eyes. The color of the blue was very difficult to see from the pictures, but the color had absolutely gorgeous... hues of blue with silver sparkles over it... or I should say the color was like "metallic blue" hues from light to dark on the top surface of the body. Along with that vivid blue, brilliant golden color ran both side of the body. The belly side was almost pure white that competed the perfect countershading pattern. The various toned colors of blue, gold, silver and white were glittering as Hawaii's bright sunlight hit her body. Very shiny. Breathtakingly beautiful.

blue shark, Prionace glauca, large female, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Definitely she was the largest blue shark I've ever encountered to this day. Sadly in California, nowadays it's rare to see a big one like this due to the notorious, relentless Mexican shark fishery that has been killing blue and mako sharks of all sizes by thousands each year.

While I was having great times of my life with this perfect shark, my buddy was screaming at me from the boat as she could see me struggling with the large shark, "Masa, get out of the water! You'd better think about your newborn son & wife!" Yeah, I guess she was right.

But since it was such a rare opportunity, I invited her to join me in the water with the shark, besides, I needed a human body as a model to show the size of the shark comparatively in my pictures. Well, she sincerely declined my invitation. While having a conversation with her, the shark seemed to get the idea that she won't be getting anything from me, and slowly swam away into the deep blue Pacific Ocean.

blue shark, Prionace glauca, large female, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, Pacific Ocean

Although the shark left a heck of a lot of scratches and teeth marks on my precious dome port, I was able to grab some decent shots. As you can see, they look different from those typical pictures taken in California. First of all the color of the water makes a huge difference. In California, it's usually green or greenish blue. Sometimes it gets really blue but most likely very heavy and dark, not like clear Hawaiian blue - bright and pleasant.

I'm very happy with the pictures I've got from this super exciting, extreme encounter. I was also happy with the fact that I survived to see my family again. It's rewarding to see the result of my effort!


  1. This shark looks so hilarious and sometimes looks horrible. Thanks for such nice photos. Amazing photography.

  2. I agree. The blue shark has such a cute face, so the shark in my pictures looked more like funny and adorable contrary to the menacing situation I was in. I wanted to show the aggressive side of the shark, though.