Diver dwarfed by massive ray swimming off the coast of Tarpon Springs
TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (FOX 13) - Shawn Campbell has dived in some of the world's most beautiful waters.
"I've seen a few things, I've been all around the world diving," said Campbell, who has been diving for many years.
However, it was during Sunday's dive to an airplane wreck off the Pinellas Coast that Campbell and a group of Tarpon Springs divers with Narcosis Scuba were greeted by something unlike anything they'd ever seen.
"I see something off in the sand," said Campbell. "I decide to go check it out while everyone else is looking at the wrecks and it gets larger, larger and larger."
The divers soon found themselves face to face with a stingray, but this ray was almost too big to believe.
"That is the biggest ray I have ever seen. Like I said, I've seen manta rays and things, but this species in the Gulf, I've never seen a ray that big before."
Campbell said his best guess would put the massive ray anywhere from ten to 12 feet long. It's a sight he knew would be almost unbelievable.
"I decide to swim parallel to the ray, just so I could prove how big this ray is," said Campbell. "I'm about 6 feet and I had 2 feet fins on, and you saw, I'm only about 6 feet away from that ray, and I look tiny compared to it."
The FWC told FOX 13 that the enormous creature appears to be a Roughtail Stingray. It's one of the largest 'whip-tailed' ray species that can be found in Florida waters.
While the ray could be dangerous if provoked, she gave the divers a chance to admire her size before eventually swimming away.
It was an experience Campbell said was unlike any other.
"It was letting us live in its backyard and say hi," said Campbell. "The only thing I was thinking was how beautiful of a creature it was."
Campbell said he believes the ray will stick around for at least another month until the Gulf waters begin to warm up.