Palm Bay, FL (written by J.D. Gallop/Florida Today) -- The video camera dipped and bobbed in the clear, topaz-toned water and captured an unmistakable sight: a 12- to 14-foot-long great white shark coursing beneath the waves as Palm Bay, Fla., spear fisherman Steve Maldonado and the stunned crew of the Boaty Call looked on.
The frightening moment elicited shouts of excitement and some expletives from those aboard the 28-foot-long boat as the shark continued to follow a diver back toward the vessel as Maldonado shot video.
Several experts agree it is the same type of shark that instills fear in so many and conjures up images of the movie "Jaws."
"The diver was worried at the moment, but he didn't realize that it was a great white. This is something that you just don't see every day," Maldonado said, adding that the diver caught only a glimpse of the creature swimming nearby during the Saturday morning excursion 13 miles off Fort Pierce, Fla.
The diver, in 130 feet of water with a 5-foot-long spear gun, quickly climbed into the boat as the shark followed.
"The shark stayed with us for about 20 minutes," said Maldonado, who has been spear fishing since 2010 and received his dive certification earlier this year. "Once he got close, we just tossed chum in the water."
The crew then decided to leave the area.
Maldonado said the four-member crew was out Saturday participating in a spear fishing tournament. They planned to stay in the deep but decided to move back to shallow waters closer to the coast after spotting the shark.
"I've always had a love for snorkeling. I've seen bull sharks, saw a 14-foot hammerhead shark off of Stuart. Sometimes the bull sharks get so close you have to poke them away, but this," said Maldonado who typically will hold his breath and dive 30 or 40 feet to hunt for cobia and other fish.
But great whites, one of the largest predatory fish in the sea and known to eat some of its prey whole, are a rare sight off the Central and South Florida coasts. They occasionally are seen farther out to sea. In June 2011, a scuba diver hunting for amberjack with a spear gun off Sebastian Inlet, between Palm Bay and Fort Pierce 45 miles to the south, spotted and filmed a shadowy encounter with a great white shark silhouetted in murky water.
Great whites can grow more than 15 feet long and weigh more than 1,500 pounds. In recent weeks, great whites have made news with sightings in the Northeast and California.
Earlier this month, a great white was suspected of biting a surfer in half off the western coast of Australia. Maldonado's video was posted in a diving forum and quickly went viral. The diver believes the reef off the coast with its teeming sea life could be attracting more of the predators.
"There's a lot of reef structure from Wabasso on down. The shark population seems to be growing," Maldonado said, adding that he didn't plan on giving up his diving trips.
"I enjoy the hunt and the food...it's fresh fish."