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Shark Bay Bloodbath: 70 Sharks Devour a Humpback Whale

A still frame from drone footage of tiger sharks feeding on a humpback whale carcass, shot by Australian tour company Eco Abrolhos on May 20. (Image credit: Eco Abrolhos)

On May 20, tourists on an Australian cruise witnessed an incredible but gruesome sight: approximately 70 tiger sharks tearing apart the carcass of a humpback whale in Shark Bay.

The tour company, Eco Abrolhos, encountered the bloody scene during the fourth day of a 14-day cruise, as the group traveled near Steep Point, Dirk Hartog Island, according to a post on the company's Facebook page. They used an aerial drone to capture footage of the carnage and shared the video on Facebook, showing scores of tiger sharks circling and ripping into the dead whale, as clouds of gore stained the turquoise water.

The sharks were described as having "a whale of a time."

In an earlier image that Eco Abrolhos shared on Facebook before posting the video, a group of sharks clustered around the whale carcass, close enough to the boat — and the photographer — that they appear no more than an arm's length away.  

The video has accrued more than 850,000 views since it was shared on May 21.

Shark Bay is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site on the western coast of Australia. Its waters, islands and peninsulas cover approximately 5.4 million acres (2.2 million hectares) and host diverse communities of plants, amphibians, land mammals and marine life.

Shark Bay earned its name in 1699, after English explorer William Dampier visited the region and was deeply impressed by the number of sharks he observed there. He also pronounced those sharks to be delicious, according to Australia's Department of Parks and Wildlife.

But in the May 21 video, it was whale that was on the menu. Increasingly, humpback whales and southern right whales have been using Shark Bay as a stopping point along their migratory routes, UNESCO explained in a site description. While the tour guides were unable to tell how the whale got there or describe the circumstances surrounding its death, the sight of the feeding frenzy likely will not be forgotten anytime soon — by the tourists who witnessed it firsthand, or by the hundreds of thousands of people who glimpsed it on video.

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Mindy Weisberger
Mindy Weisberger is a senior writer for Live Science covering general science topics, especially those relating to brains, bodies, and behaviors in humans and other animals — living and extinct. Mindy studied filmmaking at Columbia University; her videos about dinosaurs, biodiversity, human origins, evolution, and astrophysics appear in the American Museum of Natural History, on YouTube, and in museums and science centers worldwide. Follow Mindy on Twitter.