National Geographic : 1990 Oct
THE LARGEST CREATURE ever seen in the deep sea lumbered in front of the view ports of the submersible Nautile on Septem ber 13, 1989. Four thousand feet deep, the Pacific sleeper shark, Somniosus pacificus, crashed into the two-by-two-foot bait cage and pushed it into the mud. Because of the angle of the shark's approach, the men inside Nautile were unable to see the entire body (painting). "The best we can say is that it was more than 23 feet long," says shark expert Eugenie Clark, chief scientist of the Suruga Bay expedition. For the three eyewitnesses inside the 26-foot-long sub- pilot Jean-Michel Nivagglio, copilot Andre Bonfiglio, and cameraman Ralph White -the encounter began soon after they PAINTINGBY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICARTISTCHRISTOPHE had completed their 30-minute descent. White recalls: "We saw a fish bump into a wall, and then the wall moved. The sub shook. On the shark's second pass we saw the head. Parasites hung from fluttering gills. As it left, we saw enough of the underside to determine it was female. All we could think was holy mackerel!"