18-foot great white shark gnaws on whale, just as a whale-watching cruise passes

The scene whale watchers came upon Sunday in Cape Cod Bay. The shark was estimated to be 18 feet long.
The scene whale watchers came upon Sunday in Cape Cod Bay. The shark was estimated to be 18 feet long.

A cruise ship full of whale watchers came upon a confounding scene Sunday in Cape Cod Bay, when they instead saw a great white shark eating one of the tour’s star attractions.

Photos of the moment -- some showing the shark baring its teeth -- were posted Sunday by marine biologist Joanne Jarzobski, who works aboard the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise.

She said the whale was a fin back, and it was already dead when sharks started eating it.

“We had received a report in the morning that this whale was floating in the bay and we were asked to try to document it on our whale watch,” Jarzobski told the Charlotte Observer via Facebook.

“There were at least two great white sharks scavenging on the dead whale. One of the great white sharks was extremely large, estimated to be 18 feet or longer. It was huge! We had approximately 160 passengers on board who were in complete awe...”

Seeing a great white shark in action was “truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our passengers,” she said.

The cause of the whale’s death was not determined, Jarzobski said. She posted on Facebook that they were 7 miles from Barnstable Harbor when the crew spotted the whale.

The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy posted one of her photos of the feeding and it has been shared more than 2,000 times. Among the 400-plus comments were some who called it “terrifying.”

“So someone went on a whale watch and this is what they saw?” posted Beth Rowlands. “That must have been disappointing.”

“That’s a horrible thing to see on a whale watch cruise!” said Stacey Conca Monfils on Facebook. “I’d want my money back!”

Passengers on the ship seemed to feel differently, judging from comments posted on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises Facebook page.

“This was our fifth whale watching trip... and we had never seen a whale,” posted Jim Holmgren on Facebook. “What a way to break the streak!”

“It was a spectacular experience to witness this live,” wrote Cora Vlug-Bot.

“We were on the boat and this was a once in a lifetime National Geographic-quality viewing event!!” Tony Clark wrote on Facebook.

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Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs