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Vancouver Island scuba divers spot sixgill shark in rare shallow-water sighting

A bluntnose sixgill shark is seen illuminated by divers in the waters near Port Alberni, B.C., in an undated still image made from handout video footage. A group of British Columbia scuba divers on Vancouver Island spotted the shark on a recent dive in Alberni Inlet, capturing what they say is rare footage of the animal in shallow waters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Uncharted Odyssey, Garrett Clement, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

NANAIMO, B.C. — Connor McTavish and three companions had just planned to explore the site of a shipwreck in Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island last month when he spotted something in the corner of his eye — a two-metre-long sixgill shark.

McTavish and fellow diversGarrett Clement, Danton West and Matteo Endrizzi had made the trip from Nanaimo, B.C., to explore the waters of the inlet in late May. 

McTavish was first to spot the animal and used a flashlight and hand signals to alert the others to the shark. It was hard for them to believe, he said. 

He briefly lost sight of the creature but it reappeared around the wreck. The group trained cameras on it, capturing what they say is incredibly rare footage of a shark not usually seen in shallower waters. 

"Thank goodness I'm diving with some phenomenal videographers because they were able to get that unreal footage," McTavish said. "Otherwise, nobody would have believed us or myself that, you know, there's this incredibly rare shark to see."

The footage was recently posted to Clement's Uncharted Odyssey YouTube channel.

McTavish said his initial nervousness and fear of the shark soon turned to wonder at the creature's beauty. 

"It was just going through my mind that I'm in its element. It's just curious. (You) just stay calm and watch it pass and that's the best I can do," he said. "For the most part, it was just amazement and wonder how beautiful the thing was." 

He said he's been on about 75 dives. Though each one has offered different wildlife to admire, seeing the shark was a highlight for him and his fellow divers. 

McTavish said some divers can go a lifetime without being so lucky and the Calgary native feels grateful for the experience. 

"It's definitely a treat to have seen it. You never know when you'll get a chance, you've just got to get in the water," he said. "I'm not going to stop just because we've seen the unicorn." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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