Paul Keller was sitting on the back porch of his rented cottage by the Bay of Fundy, sipping his morning coffee, when he spotted some commotion in the water. Perhaps the splash of a flipper, he figured, or something washing up against a rock.
Through his binoculars he realized he had spotted a rare scene of ocean carnage — a great white shark feeding on a whale carcass.
“That was kind of an odd, strange sensation to see,” said the bi-vocational pastor, who lives in China, Maine.
“At first I thought it was some sort of flipper or something rubbing against the rock. Then I saw the fin of what became the shark. Then I thought, ‘Wow, OK, this is something you don’t see every day.’ At least I’ve never seen.”
Keller and his wife usually spend at least a week every year in the summer by Campobello Island. This year, they were in New Brunswick from Aug. 26 to 31.
The morbid Monday morning scene about 7 1/2 metres from the shore showed the shark taking bites out of the whale and eating it.
“The whale’s intestine was kind of hanging out,” he said. “It was surreal.”
The 22-second video filmed by Keller shows a black-and-white shark head chomping on a brownish mass in the splashing waters.
Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark, a veterinarian at Dalhousie University who saw the video, said he would identify the animal as a great white shark by its head shape, mouth size and position, eye position, colour and its overall size.
“The Fundy region is noted for this species’ seasonal presence,” he said.
The shark is likely feeding on a minke whale or a humpback whale or a North Atlantic right whale, he said. The size of the carcass looks too big to be a pilot whale, he added.
Past studies have shown that great white sharks will stay in the vicinity of such a carcass and feed for days, Harvey-Clark said.
“That begs the question: what do sharks enjoy? I think they certainly like a very fatty, high-energy density, blubber-rich food source like a whale carcass. It’s a floating all-you-can-eat buffet,” he said.
“It’s the ultimate free meal. No need to hunt, capture prey with risks to eyes and other body parts from fractious seals. You can feed when you want to.”
While it was a “cool sight,” Keller said the episode was more of a human interaction story, which he shared with others, making friends and connections.
“Another young man … an aeronautical engineer who I met on the ferry, said, ‘Well, that video should go viral.” I don’t even really know what that means,” he said, describing one interaction with a laugh.
“I think more than anything, once we see something and we’re able to share it with others and that interaction back and forth and ‘Wow, isn’t that neat?’ You know, great moments are meant to be shared. So I’m grateful for that.”
— by Hina Alam in Fredericton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2023.