After staring at a barren seafloor for nearly three hours, National Geographic's Alan Turchik couldn't believe his eyes when a rare deep-sea Greenland shark suddenly drifted across the screen. (Warning: an excessively long stream of bleeped-out expletives to follow)
The shark was spotted off the coast of Franz Josef Land, a series of 192 islands north of Russia's Barents Sea and due east of Svalbard, Norway. A team from National Geographic was sent there last year to document the marine biodiversity of the region, the results of which now appear in the scientific journal Peer J.
Catching Turchik's joyful, expletive-filled reaction on film was pure luck.
Cameraman Michael Pagenkopf wanted some shots of the team members working on the boat for a film about the expedition. So he trained the lens on Turchik, who was reviewing video footage he downloaded from his remote camera after recovering it from nearly 700 feet (211 meters) down.
Just as Pagenkopf swapped his camera's battery and started filming, the picture on Turchik's screen started bouncing around. It didn't take long to hear how the engineer felt about the shark.
"I didn't even know there were sharks up there," he says.
Indeed, this region of Russia's high arctic is not known to host deep sea sharks of any kind, making this discovery all the more remarkable.
A Greenland shark spotted near Canada's Baffin Island. Check out the cream-colored parasite dangling from its eye. Photo: Nick Caloyianis, National Geographic.
The shark measured about 6.5 feet (2 meters), which means it's practically a baby. These things can grow up to 23 feet (7 meters) long. Scientists aren't sure how long they live (possibly 100 years), or if they're predators or scavengers (their stomach contents have been known to contain cod, wolffish, and squid). Greenland sharks are practically blind owing to an eye parasite, and their meat is toxic to humans.
Find out more at National Geographic.