In Greek mythology, the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature. It was composed of parts from several animals. In 1758 the Swedish biologist Carl von Linné named a mysterious fish “Chimaera monstrosa”. With a name like that, it sounds like every scuba diver’s worst nightmare!
We can reveal already that it is not fire breathing (sorry, only clickbait), but it is truly a hybrid fish. It is a hybrid of a shark and a ray. It cannot be mistaken with any other fish. The most common name for it is either Ghost shark or Rabbit fish. The eyes are enormous and clearly adapted to a life deep down in complete darkness. When your dive light hits the eye in a certain angle, an emerald-green light beam is reflected.
The Ghost shark moves very graciously through the water like a ray. It uses its large pectoral fins like wings. For protection, it has a poisonous thorn in front of the first dorsal fin. The poison is twice as strong as for the more well-known greater weever (Fjesing in Norwegian). The poison may cause great pain and inflammation. The long, whip shaped tail, is not used for neither propulsion or protection. It´s function is most likely just for maneuvering.
The ghost shark normally lives deep below all recreational scuba limits. It has been captured on depths of 1600 meters. Despite this, divers in Norway can experience the ghost shark during the dark winter nights. Like many animals in the sea, they perform vertical migrations during the night. This is the greatest migration in the world in terms of biomass and it is taking place every night. In the shallow, the Ghost shark feeds on bottom living prey like shellfishes, mollusks and fish. They detect their prey with a big nose packed with hyper sensitive sensors. It has tooth plates which may project from its small mouth like a rabbit.
The Ghost shark can be found along the entire Norwegian coast. For scuba divers to find it, the dive site should have a steep inclination down to the deep where the shark stays during daylight. The deep Norwegian fjords are perfect locations. The exact mechanisms are however not known. The light conditions, temperature, food supply and water movements probably play an important role.
Gravdal, just outside Bergen, is one of the well-known dive sites where scuba divers regularly meet the Ghost shark during the winter. They may be observed all the way up to the safety stop at 6 meters, but it is usually required to go down to 30 meters. The Ghost shark is very curious, and if approached carefully you can stay with it for a long time. Instead of being your worst nightmare, we can guarantee that a Ghost shark encounter will turn out to be one of your finest moments underwater!
We stayed at the clubhouse of Sotra Dykkerklubb. It is approximately a half hour drive from the clubhouse to Gravdal. During day time you can do fantastic nature diving at Sotra and Øygarden.