Whale Shark Strikes Diver In Atlantic Ocean

Dustin Wicksell

Two spearfishermen experienced a heart stopping moment in the deep waters of the southern Atlantic ocean when a giant whale shark crashed into one of them, catching the hapless diver unawares.

Chris Coates was diving in deep water off Ascension Island, with a friend, filming a spearfishing adventure movie when the incident occurred, according to The Daily Mail. Distracted by a fish caught between the two, Coates was blind to the shark's approach. His dive partner spied the animal first and signaled him, yet it was too late for Coates to avoid the giant shark.

The whale shark, which can grow to be 32 feet long, appears behind Coates and barrels into him as if unaware of his presence, striking him in the lower torso. Luckily for him, the whale shark is distinctly different from other, more predatory species of shark. In place of deadly teeth, it sports filter pads that allow it to feed on plankton and small fish.

— #ItsASharkThing (@Shark_Toothday) September 3, 2014

— WWF UK (@wwf_uk) September 1, 2014

Though harmless, the whale shark faces as much danger from humans as any other marine species. Traditionally targeted by commercial fisheries, their actual population is unknown. Despite the fact that they are considered to be vulnerable, whale sharks are still hunted in parts of Asia.

— Agence France-Presse (@AFP) August 4, 2014

Despite the harrowing encounter with the whale shark, Coates was able to return to diving the next day.

[Image via The Daily Mail]