How Fast Can A Great White Shark Swim? These Divers Just Found Out

A newlywed couple from New England recently encountered a young great white shark while cage diving off the coast of South Africa, and footage they captured has gone viral online, racking up more than a million views.

Tiffany Levesque and Spencer Reilly hail from Southington, Connecticut, according to NECN, and the couple recently traveled to South Africa for a two-week-long honeymoon. While diving in a cage to which great white sharks had been baited, Spencer recorded an unusual encounter, proving just how terrifyingly fast one of the sharks can propel itself through the water.

As the camera rolls, Spencer films the water beyond the cage, catching the image of a piece of bait being dragged toward the enclosure. Seemingly out of nowhere, a white shark barrels into view, chasing the bait. Lightning fast, the shark collides with the cage, its face jutting between the bars before it recoils and retreats.

Tiffany was outside the cage when the encounter took place, having observed enough of the action for herself. She relates that she was looking over the ship’s rail when the shark charged the cage and watched it collide with the enclosure. Though both Spencer and Tiffany witnessed the interaction occur from just a few feet away, neither one of them appreciated just how far the shark had reached into the cage until they reviewed the footage.

Based on the video, the great white shark that struck the cage didn’t appear to be fully grown, as Boston.com points out. Nevertheless, white sharks can swim as fast as 35 mph underwater and have been known to attack with such momentum that they are often carried fully out of the waves. These breach attacks, which are common off the coast of South Africa, routinely yield stunning footage, as the Huffington Post points out.

While tour companies bait great white sharks to attract them to cages, the practice remains divisive and deeply controversial. Last year, a stunning photo of a white shark was captured from a cage in South Africa, going viral and raising more than a few questions. Those critical of the technique point out that it can often be harmful to the sharks, causing them to crash into the cage and, at worst, leading the predators to lose teeth when they miss the bait and bite into the steel bars. Such an interaction was filmed last year, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

Cage diving is not only an issue in South Africa but also at other white shark hotspots worldwide. Over the last decade, a recurrent population of great whites has sprung up off Cape Cod, and in recent years, they have become a tourist attraction for the region. This past summer, researchers worked with the state of Massachusetts to enact a series of regulations meant to govern interactions with the shark population and prevent harm to both the animals and beachgoers.

Under these measures, anyone seeking to bait white sharks off the cape must have a specialized permit to do so. One of the main criticisms of cage diving and white shark baiting, in general, is the assertion that the practice, when repeated, conditions the sharks to associate human beings with food. By regulating diving companies and anglers, officials hope to keep the white shark population focused on their primary prey animals – namely, the large population of seals that frequent the region.

Despite recording his near-miss, Spencer says that the encounter wasn’t frightening when it actually transpired. After the predator retreated, he remained in the cage a while longer, watching even bigger great white sharks swim by.

[Photo by bellamy.andrew – Own Work via Flickr | Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0]