In 1945, an enormous white shark was caught off Cojimar, a fishing village east of Havana, Cuba. In a widely distributed photo of the shark, the entire village seems to have come out for the event. Several adults are seen in the background, while kids sit on the shark carcass, legs dangling over the side. The shark was named “El Monstruo,” meaning “the monster.”
When measured, the shark was found to be in excess of 21 feet and weighed over 7,000 pounds, which would make it the largest great white shark on record. But not all scientists trust the measurements taken that day, and the true size and weight of El Monstruo have been debated ever since.
Fishermen notoriously exaggerate the size of their catches, and so it holds that fishy stories have accompanied infamous shark landings over the years. Later analysis of the photo by experts, such as R. Aidan Martin of the ReefQuest Center for Shark Research, suggests that El Monstruo fell short of its stated size. Martin instead concluded it measured around 16 feet in length, with a weight that’s hard to determine just based on a single photo.
For comparison, experts mainly agree that 20 feet is the more common maximum size for a great white, with these larger individuals weighing around 4,200 pounds. Females tend to be larger than males, so they can fall into the 20-footer group. The majority of great whites, however, measure between 13 and 16 feet with an average weight of 1,500 to 2,450 pounds.