Palm Beach Divers Capture Stunning Video of Rare Whale Shark Encounter

Around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, a group of 19 or so divers were exploring the waters of Palm Beach when an unexpected visitor showed up. The beast? A giant whale shark.

"It just came right through the middle of the divers," says Van Blakeman, captain of Narcosis, the dive boat that was leading the tour. "It spent five or ten minutes going in and out of the divers, swimming over and under them. It was curious about the divers and came up close to a few of them. Then it just went away."

Fortunately, one of the divers captured stunning video of the encounter, which is available after the jump.

Blakeman, 60, has been running dive trips in the area since 1991. During that time, he's come across a whale shark only six times.

"It's pretty rare," he says. "Every couple of years, you get to see one. And it's usually around this time of the year, always around Thanksgiving."

Whale sharks, which are fish, not whales, are among the largest animals in the world. They weigh on average more than 20 tons and can measure nearly 40 feet in length. They dine mostly on plankton, using their enormous mouths as a vacuum.

Blakeman estimates that the one spotted Sunday was 20 feet long. "That's relatively small. I'd consider it a juvenile," he says.

The encounter took place roughly 300 yards south of the ocean buoy on the Palm Beach Inlet. Here's the video of the gentle giant:

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