Watch Great White Shark Devouring Endangered Whale off South Carolina Coast

A great white shark feeding frenzy took place last week after a whale was found dead around 15 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

For Hilton Head charter captain Chip Michalove, the allure of witnessing the sight was so great his crew set off at 3 a.m. hoping to get a glimpse of the action. "We thought this may be one of the craziest things we've ever done," he told Newsweek.

Michalove, who runs the local expedition business Outcast Sport Fishing, said it was an "extremely rare occasion" that he simply couldn't miss.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, or NOAA Fisheries, said on February 28 that the 11-year-old male North Atlantic right whale that was found dead off Myrtle Beach the day prior was known to the agency as "Cottontail." He was entangled in ropes.

The agency said it became entangled in October 2020 off the coast of Nantucket and a sighting on February 18 indicated its condition had worsened since that time. Officials noted it had been spotted alive off Florida's coast just over a week earlier.

Michalove said in a social media post last week his team had been waiting for the right weather before attempting to reach the whale—and a window opened up last Thursday. The encounter took place off the coast of McClellanville, South Carolina.

"The thought of witnessing a circus kept us motivated. And it was everything we were hoping, it was hard to leave," he told Newsweek via email on Tuesday.

Over the past week, the Outcast Sport Fishing Facebook profile has published images and videos from the scene, including one showing a great white chomping at the carcass. Michalove said that it had been a "conveyor belt of large great whites" throughout the entire day.

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Michalove said his first reaction was to the smell, which he said took getting used to but for the sharks would have been "like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies."

He said: "I've grown up here and never had the opportunity of watching the circus of the dead whale get eaten. I feel bad for the whale, I know there's a lot of interest in their survival, but I couldn't help but take advantage of the situation. There's no question if the opportunity came up again I would drop anything in the world to witness it."

The North Atlantic Right Whale is considered to be among the rarest of all large whale species and is federally listed as an endangered species. Officials say the population level is critical, with about 300 of the animals left in western North Atlantic waters.

Michalove's crew kept its distance from the whale, which was still protected by law, and eventually the great whites started to become attracted to his own boat.

In a Facebook post, Michalove said he was able to take a picture of one culprit, writing: "This [shark] kept coming back and getting more. Probably left with a couple hundred pounds of whale meat. Was also the culprit who grabbed one of the motors."

The charter captain has tagged and released dozens of sharks in the name of scientific research, helping experts to track the movements of the apex predators.

His website says species including great whites, bulls, tigers and hammerheads would all be released back into the ocean. "If they're under 100lbs, I'll be happy to hand them to you for a picture. The larger ones will remain in the water," an FAQ page says.

Ultimately, when asked what it was like to get up close with the feared species of shark, Michalove told Newsweek: "There's no adrenaline rush like it.

"I do this for a living yet seeing them swim around us, biting at the boat and motors, it's a dream come true. We looked eye to eye at the baddest fish in the Atlantic."

White Shark feeding frenzy
A great white shark feeding frenzy took place last Thursday (March 4, 2021) after a whale was found dead around 15 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Picture used with permission. Chip Michalove/Outcast Sport Fishing