Passengers aboard the Ocean Explorer on Tuesday were scouting for whales when they encountered a baby great white shark less than a mile off Newport Beach.
"I almost damn-near ran the thing over," said Capt. Larry Hartman, who relinquished the helm to Capt. Kyle Brown so he could videotape the shark.
The Ocean Explorer runs from Newport Landing and the rare sighting was made during the 3:30 p.m. run a mile to the south, about three-quarters of a mile offshore.
The shark measured 5-6 feet, baby-size, and Hartman said a 15-foot white shark was spotted the previous day in the same general area, by the captain of a fishing boat.
Hartman said the white shark seemed curious about the boat, and even rode in the vessel's bow wake. "It hung out with us for about 20 minutes," Hartman said. "The passengers were freaking out."
Though young white sharks utilize Southern California coastal waters as a nursery, feeding on small fishes, rays and smaller sharks, very few are spotted.
"I've only seen one other great white in my life," Hartman said.