A mate for a Marathon and Big Pine Key dive shop saw and filmed a large great white shark while on his first deep dive above the Thunderbolt shipwreck off Marathon Wednesday.
Cody Wabiszewski, who works for Captain Hooks Marina and Dive Center, spotted the shark within 30 seconds of jumping in the water, he said Friday. He's in the process of becoming advanced scuba certified. He'd already completed the required night dive, and next up was his deep dive.
Wabiszewski, 30, was 65 feet down and thought he might be getting dizzy and confused from the depths, a condition known as narcosis, when he saw the shark. Then he thought it was a very large bull shark.
"I thought, I must be narced. That's too big to be a bull," Wabiszewski said.
Sightings of great whites in the Keys are unusual.
The Thunderbolt was intentionally sunk in 1986 as an artificial reef. It lies in about 100 feet of water four miles south of Marathon, according to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
As he and other divers descended, the shark was about 15 feet below them. When they reached the deck of the Thunderbolt, they huddled together, waiting and hoping the shark would return. It did, and Wabiszewski was ready with his camera.
"It was amazing," he said. "It looked like an aquarium, because behind the shark were other fish like cobia and some permit and amberjacks. It's what you envision in your dreams when you think about the first time you go scuba diving. It was unreal."
Wabiszewski, an aerospace engineer by trade who moved to the Keys three months ago to become a charter fishing boat captain, said the shark circled the group three times before swimming off and disappearing.
Among the other divers was instructor Chad Sawyer, who dove with great whites as a dive instructor in San Diego, California, before moving to the Keys. Wabiszewski said Sawyer estimated the shark to be 15 feet long, and likely a female.
Great white sharks are rarely seen in South Florida and Florida Keys waters, but they are known to visit the area.
The shark-tracking nonprofit Ocearch, which tags great whites and tiger sharks, pinged two great whites near Key West earlier this month.