HONOLULU (KHON2) — Underwater photographer Deron Verbeck said he went diving on Friday, Nov. 26, off the Big Island’s Keahole Point when he thought he saw a school of ulua.

But something was off because the size and shape made him think of a tiger shark at first.

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“I kept looking at the head, I’m like, ‘that is not a tiger shark,’ and it got closer and closer,” Verbeck said. “It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and I was like, ‘that is for sure 100% a great white.'”

The beast — which Verbeck said was over 15 feet — was not behaving in a threatening way, so he stuck around.

(Deron Verbeck video)

“And I just shot as much as I could as she went by, and she just disappeared back off the drop, then I was just shaking like, ‘woah! That was insane!'”

Deron Verbeck, underwater photographer

Dr. Carl Meyer with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology said, great whites may be in the area because of humpback whales, which breed in Hawaiian waters from November through April. According to Dr. Meyer, the behavior Verbeck saw is fairly normal for great whites.

“Typical behavior of these big sharks is one of wariness around people. So even though they might be curious, they’re also wary. And so the only time that you see aggressive behavior is typically when they’re actively foraging.”

Dr. Carl Meyer, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

Verbeck said he was unnerved and overwhelmed by the experience, but never felt in danger.

“If she wanted to take me, she would have taken me,” Verbeck said, “and her demeanor was just curiosity, she just came up to look to see what I was doing.”

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Verbeck said he is grateful that he did not end up as fish food because of the encounter.