Deep Blue, one of world's largest great white sharks, possibly spotted off Hawaiian coast

HONOLULU -- Shark fans are buzzing about a possible sighting of Deep Blue, widely believed to be one of the world's largest great whites, off the Hawaiian coast earlier this week.

Divers spotted the huge shark, whose size and markings were said to resemble those of Deep Blue, during a Jan. 15 excursion off Oahu's North Shore, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Shark conservationist Ocean Ramsey told the paper she was leading an expedition to monitor tiger sharks feeding on a nearby whale carcass when the massive shark approached their boat.

"She was just this big, beautiful gentle giant wanting to use our boat as a scratching post. We went out at sunrise, and she stayed with us pretty much throughout the day," Ramsey told the newspaper, adding that the "shockingly wide" shark looked pregnant.

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Deep Blue, a 20-foot great white shark spotted off the coast of Guadalupe Island, is widely considered to be among the biggest great white sharks ever filmed.

Deep Blue swam into the internet spotlight several years ago when a Discovery Channel film crew spotted her during a Shark Week shoot off Mexico's Guadalupe Island. In video later shared widely on social media, the gargantuan creature swam up to the crew's dive cage and poked around curiously before disappearing back into the blue.

At the time, she was estimated to be approximately 20 feet long and was considered to be among the largest great white sharks ever caught on camera. Discovery's crew pegged her age at more than 50 years.

Great whites are uncommon in Hawaii's warm waters, Ramsey said, but hunger could have driven the shark out of its comfort zone. While Deep Blue's theoretical journey from Guadalupe Island to Hawaii might seem like a long way for a shark to travel, the creatures have been known to traverse entire oceans. Scientists in the early 2000s tracked one great white's 12,400-mile journey from South Africa to Western Australia and back.

While Ramsey and her team were mesmerized by the large shark, state wildlife officials later took to Facebook to discourage the public from approaching the rotting whale carcass and the wildlife it attracts.

"Understandably, some people want to get into the water either out of fascination or to get photographs," Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said in a statement, "but it is truly dangerous to be around this carcass with so much shark activity."

"We're asking people to stay out of the water around this carcass. We don't want anyone to get hurt if a shark swimming around the carcass mistakes them as food," he added.