Exploring The Massive Size & Elaborate Tales Of The World’s Biggest Great White Sharks
The great white shark is one of the most feared and revered predators in the ocean. With its razor sharp teeth, intimidating size, and impressive hunting abilities, it’s no wonder people have a healthy respect for these apex predators.
But just how big are great white sharks? And what is the biggest great white shark ever recorded? Let’s find out!
How Big Are Great White Sharks?
The answer may surprise you! Great white sharks can grow to be up to around 11-15 feet long on average, with some female specimens even reaching lengths up to 20 feet. Males have been known to weigh up to 2 tons (4200 pounds), and females up to 4500 pounds, but most cases are around half of that. Females are larger than males, as with most sharks.
There are however some examples that exceed the norm, and grow exceptionally large.
What Is The Biggest Great White Shark Ever Caught?
The trouble with accurately measuring the size of a great white shark, is that you need to catch them first. There have been many reports of these sharks exceeding 20 ft in size, but these reports rely on measuring by estimation, from photographs and ‘rough’ measurement. Not many of these have been caught and verified as accurately measured.
The largest ‘accurately’ measured and verified specimen ‘caught’, remains to be a shark caught in 1959 by Alf Dean off the coast of South Australia, weighing in at 1,208 kg (2,663 lb). This is the largest to be recognised by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), but larger sharks have been recorded.
The Canadian Shark Research Centre recorded a 6.1 m (20 ft) long female in 1988, and another Australian specimen in 1987 reliably measured in at 5.94 m (19.5 ft).
What Is The Biggest Great White Shark Ever Recorded?
It’s difficult to say what is the biggest great white shark ever recorded, as most of the results are speculative. There are some truly massive examples out there, but confirmation through scientific measurement is not easy.
Early 20th Century entries in the record books, had two specimens exceeding 36 feet in length, but these have since been proven inaccurate. It is difficult to authenticate the legitimacy of a claim on size, without actually catching the shark.
Two sharks have also bee recorded at 21 feet (6.4 meters) in length, the first from Cojimar, Cuba in 1945, and the second from Malindi, Kenya in 1996. In each case the original measurement was speculative, and later disputed and revised.
There have been several specimens recorded over 23 feet long (7 meters) around Australia, Malta and the Azores between the 1970’s and 1980’s, but these measurements are based on estimates and not scientifically confirmed.
There have been many large specimens harpooned that then manage to break away before accurately measuring or weighing them, leaving only photographic or anecdotal evidence to support the claim of size.
That being said, the accuracy of modern photography makes it much easier to estimate the size of a shark today, than it was only a few decades ago.
Other Massive Great White Sharks
There are some great white sharks that take the headlines from time to time with claims of being the largest. While they are large, and sell a good story, the claim of ‘largest great white’ is overly ambitious.
The most famous of these is the female great white affectionately named ‘Deep Blue‘. This shark was first sighted around the coast of Guadalupe in 2014. She was caught on camera during the filming of an episode of ‘shark week‘. She has been sighted and filmed several times since.
Deep Blue has been estimated to have a size of 20 feet based on the footage available. It’s likely that this is not far off, given the quality of the filming equipment and the amount of footage available. But she is still a free swimmer and accurate measurement has yet to be achieved. By the same methods of measurement, there are bigger recorded great white sharks out there. She is however, the largest to have been caught on film, and not just still photography.
Other examples of large great whites that have been named, with some level of notoriety, include:
White Death – Spotted of the coast of Guadalupe, Mexico in 2016, believed from photographs taken to be around the same size as Deep Blue.
Nukumi – Caught of the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada in 2020. At capture, this female was believed to be around 50 years old, and at 17 feet long, the largest to be caught in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.
Haole Girl – Spotted off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii in 2019 – Originally mistaken for the shark Deep Blue, feeding off the carcass of a Sperm Whale. When sighted, Haole Girl was pregnant and estimated to be over 20 feet long.
Why Are Great White Sharks So Big?
Unlike many species that stop growing around the time they reach sexual maturity, great white sharks never stop growing. Their rate of growth does slow down when they reach sexual maturity but it doesn’t fully stop. When born, they are around 4 feet long, and they grow around a further 10 inches every year until they reach maturity. That may take them between 10-20 years, and males reach maturity quicker than females.
In order for them to reach their maximum potential size however, they need a solid and abundant food chain to fuel the growth. Large prey like other sharks, whales and dolphin, especially the Orca, are essential for the great white shark to reach their greatest potential size.
Great White Sharks In Film And Folk Lore
Great white sharks have been featured in films, television shows and folklore for decades. From the iconic 1975 movie Jaws to the recent 2017 thriller 47 Meters Down, great whites have been captivating audiences with their size and power. In fact, great white sharks are the third most depicted animal in movies after dogs and cats!
Folklore has also been filled with stories of giant great whites. Many tales describe them as being 30 feet (9 meters) in length and weighing over 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg). While these stories are certainly exciting, the reality is that the largest confirmed great white sharks recorded with any degree of confidence are just slightly longer than 20 feet (6.1 meters).
Despite their impressive size, great white sharks are often quite shy creatures in the presence of humans. They typically feed on fish and smaller marine animals, rarely ever attacking a human. That being said, their potential for violence on humans is always present.
When they do attack, it is usually out of curiosity or confusion rather than aggression. So while the great white shark may seem intimidating on the big screen and in folklore, in reality, they aren’t quite as menacing unless they consider you prey.
How Big Great Whites Compare To Other Big Sharks
Great whites are among the largest sharks in the world, but they’re not the biggest. The whale shark is the biggest shark species, reaching lengths of up to 40 feet or more and weighing up to 20 tons (40,000 pounds). The second-largest shark is the basking shark, which can reach 30 feet in length and weigh up to 7 tons (14,000 pounds). Other large shark species include the tiger shark and the hammerhead shark.
Although great whites may not be the biggest sharks in terms of length or weight, they do have one thing going for them: they are among the most feared predators in the ocean. Great white sharks are known for their ability to hunt and kill seals, dolphins, and even other sharks, making them a top predator in the marine food chain. This, combined with their size and strength, is why great white sharks are one of the most iconic ocean creatures.