There are few animals more enigmatic than the great white shark — they refuse captivity, observation, and many forms of interaction with humans. famously villainized in films like Jaws, the species continues to be misunderstood even as their need for environmental protections grows.
One way to learn more about great whites is to simply observe. And thanks to technology such as drones and high-definition video, it’s easier than ever for enthusiasts to document, and even interact with, the great white.
For photographer Matt Larmand of Dana Point, CA, the rare opportunity to do both came one sunny day in May.
Larmand, who is a professional drone pilot for Dana Wharf Whale Watching, caught a glimpse of a young great white near Capistrano Beach while flying his drone high above the ocean.
Surprisingly, as soon as Larmand navigated closer, the great white began to surge forward with amazing speed! “I was going full throttle on the drone trying to catch up to him,” Larmand recounted to For The Win Outdoors. He estimated the shark to be moving at 20 miles per hour, or even faster.
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For a young shark, this is extremely impressive. Full-grown great whites can only go slightly faster — 25 mph — and usually only in pursuit of prey. Larmand’s find kept up the pace for an astonishing 50 yards!
But why the jet of speed, seemingly unprovoked? Chris Lowe, Director of the Shark Lab at California State University – Long Beach, provided some answers to USA Today. His explanation is a reminder of the surprisingly perceptive nature of great whites:
“Seeing the drone shadow gave it a pretty good scare,” Lowe explains. “[Young great whites] don’t know what is a threat and the safest behavior is to flee when they experience something unknown. What’s also interesting is that babies will exhibit this rapid flight in one direction, while older sharks will do a loop around when scared. This doubling back on a potential threat is a typical predator behavior to prevent a rear attack.”
Thankfully, Larmand was never in any danger, piloting the drone safely from the beach. And, aside from the scare, the great white was completely unfazed by the situation.
Still, the pure power and speed displayed by the great white is quite impressive! It also highlights an important reminder to wildlife watchers: Sometimes, the animals can see you, too! Watch the full video below:
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