Gorgeous Drone Footage Shows Some Enormous Great Whites Near California Coast

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Written by Kirstin Harrington

Updated: November 10, 2023

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shark eating whale carcass Hervey Bay
© iStock.com/markrhiggins

Key Points:

  • This article covers sharks found near the California Coast.
  • White Sharks are about 15 feet in length on average, however, records exist of specimens that were 20 feet long and 5,000 pounds in weight.
  • Yes, there are great white sharks all over California’s coastal waters.

The Santa Barbara Channel is nationally regarded as a remarkably diverse and delicately ecological habitat. The Channel runs from Point Conception to Point Mugu.

Several vulnerable, endangered, and fragile marine species, including marbled murrelet, brown pelican, southern sea otter, southern steelhead, and blue, gray, and humpback whales, can be found in the Santa Barbara Channel. 

A large number of marine species can be found in the area’s acres of huge kelp forests and seagrass meadows. A YouTube channel under the name “theMalibuartist” shoots incredible footage of this beautiful area. 

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One of their videos has amassed nearly three million views and shows stunning images of humpback whales. While filming, the cameraman noticed something peculiar in the water – several great white sharks headed in the same direction.

great white shark

Great white sharks are massive, averaging 15 feet long and 1,500 to 4,000 pounds.

©Digital Storm/Shutterstock.com

It’s not normal for great whites to be so close to the shore. There’s one thing that was causing these huge beasts to tread in unfamiliar waters: a dead whale carcass. The first shot the cameraman spots looks to be about 16 feet long!

They can grow up to 15 feet in length on average, however, records exist of specimens that were 20 feet long and 5,000 pounds in weight.

Sharks regularly consume whale carcasses for food. Even though the species is notorious for being an apex predator, dead whales give them a chance to scrounge an easy meal that is high in energy.

The great whites aren’t the only ones getting in on the action either. Hundreds of leopard sharks can be spotted close to the shore as well! 

Small But Mighty: Leopard Sharks vs. Great White Sharks

Not nearly as ferocious or as large as white sharks, leopard sharks are one of the most common types along the coast of California. It is a stunning, elongated fish with silvery-bronze skin that is patterned with dark ovals that go neatly along its back. Leopard sharks are much smaller than great whites; they are usually 4-5 feet long, while great whites average 15-16 feet in length.

The leopard shark typically stays close to the bottom and inhabits the shallow bays and estuaries where it also periodically patrols the kelp forest. Unlike the great white, the leopard shark is harmless to humans.

Its mouth opens downward and is located on the flat bottom of its head. Young leopard sharks scoop up crabs, clam siphons, and fish eggs. The great whites won’t have to worry about competing with these bottom-feeders for the whale carcass meat. Great whites, however, are known to prey on small leopard sharks, but in this case, the whale carcass is a distraction.

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Although shark attacks do happen, scientists believe that sharks often mistake humans for seals.


On the video of the jaw-dropping footage, there are a plethora of compliments towards the filmmaker.

User Morgan Biron states, “Besides the incredible views you get of the most misunderstood animals. The way you catch the sun reflecting on and in the water is so beautiful, I love everything about your work so beautiful and relaxing!”

Believe it or not, it’s true! Watching these sharks is nothing short of relaxing! Who would’ve thought? 

Where Do Great White Sharks Live?

Temperate and sub-tropical waters lovers, great whites live in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. They can be found off the coasts of many United States shores. During colder months, they will migrate to find waters in the 50-80 degree range, which is their preference.

Great White Shark Jumping

Great White Sharks live in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

©Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

Is it Normal for Sharks to Be Found Near the California Coast?

Yes, there are great white sharks all over California’s coastal waters. Some places, however, seem to have higher shark populations than others. It is rare, though, for adult great whites to be this close to the shore.

The areas of Bird Rock are one of the most populated areas for sharks. The great white shark is the only species in California that presents a danger to humans.

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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