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Moray Firth Basking Shark

Posted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 5:52 pm
by ColinS
On 30/09/06 we spotted a single Basking Shark near to Sandend in the Moray Firth. It was approx 5 metres long and was actively feeding. We were surprised to see one on the east coast. It was the first time I had seen one and was a great experience. Hopefully the picture link will work:

For those that are interested more info on these fascinating creatures is available here: I couldn't get the 'submit a photo/report a sighting' feature to work, but at least I tried!

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 10:45 am
by maryinoxford
Looks like a lovely day to be paddling... AND a basking shark? Neptune is clearly on your side.

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:36 pm
by Surf or Die
Yay! Sandend is my local surfing beach!! Had reports last nigh that there was one off burghead and finechty not so long ago. Blimey with all the seals, dolphins, porpoise and minke's there's not alot of room out there in the moray firth!

Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:55 pm
by ColinS
Thanks for the comments here are some more photos:




Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:08 pm
by John W

Seen a few creatures in my travels, but unfortunately, I am yet to see my first Basking Shark. It looks like the sort of thing that really makes your day.


Posted: Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:19 pm
by Mark R
We saw plenty of fins off the east coast of Uist back in August. Eventually I wanted a closer look so I let my boat drift to intersect the course of two sharks. Heather suggested that this wasn't the best idea ever, but I scoffed; my mental image of basking sharks was of something about 8 feet long and perhaps a foot thick. I was a bit wrong.

What I thought I saw was two sharks some distance apart. As I grew close, I realised that what I was actually looking at, was a shark's fin and also its tail, an alarming amount of distance behind. The shark drifted slowly alongside me - directly parallel to my boat, just a couple inches away, and I realised that it was a MONSTER.

It was longer than my 5.5. metre boat and at least a metre thick. It's mouth was cavernous, jammed wide open and its back was pebble-dashed with light coloured blotches (barnacles??). It was perhaps the largest creature I have ever been close to.

As the full scale of the thing dawned upon me, I froze completely in fear and shock for the full 30 seconds it took to cruise past. Heather says that my expression was completely priceless. Absolutely the most incredible thing I've yet seen from a sea kayak.

(Just whales left to see now....)

Posted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 1:19 pm
by ColinS
Hi Mark,

Thanks for putting into words some of the emotions experienced on encountering what felt like a plankton-powered submarine!! The one I saw was not even a full-sized one. From the limited amount I have read about them they are basically a huge mouth attached to a large liver. It is quite a feeling to see the pale coloured interior of the open mouth under the water.

I think it has been reported here and elsewhere that they sometimes jump out of the water.

It has been reported that more whales (& Basking Sharks) have been seen in the Moray Firth this year.
Some nice pictures here - mostly of dolphins:

Including this one (not my photo):


Posted: Thu Oct 12, 2006 11:01 pm
by Hamish
We met a biggish basking shark of Arisaig this June. We watched it for ages and it seemed content to pass us under the boats and was not at all put off by us being there. It even it brushed our kayaks several times.

It was a fantastic start to a week's trip in the area and by far the best sighting I've had of a basking shark.


It was at least as long as my sea kayak and I couldn't resist rolling to get a better look. The first time it just passed by but the second time it looked at me- and must have thought; where the hell did that ugly b*gger come from, and it swam off rather quickly- not before I managed to take a quick photo. I was amazed when the photo came out:


I felt guilty then for disturbing it but it just carried on swimming back and forth as before.

Posted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 12:57 pm
by cj
so you didn't roll your boat to get a better look??? If I did see a basking shark, that's the question that would be on my mind......would I roll?

Posted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 4:41 pm
by tpage
I spotted this beastie 2 summers ago off Lunga

But have also had kayak encounters off Carradale bay, and last year I paddled amoung dozens of them off Canna. It really is exhilarating to paddle amounst them- a mixture of fear and a real sense of privilage.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, they are getting more common in Scottish waters as they are finding the seas to the South too hot- and this probably relates to the availability of zooplancton.

There is talk of making basking shark protection zones around Heisker (near Canna) and Gunna sound (between Tiree and Coll) to reduce boat collisions and accidentally catching or snagging the sharks. The huge numbers of animals found within these 2 locales indicates that these may actually represent prime breeding site for the baskers.


Posted: Fri Oct 13, 2006 10:19 pm
by Hamish
cj wrote:so you didn't roll your boat to get a better look??? If I did see a basking shark, that's the question that would be on my mind......would I roll?
Well, I watched the shark for a while and decided that I just had to roll.

I usually paddle with a pair of swimming goggles handy so I can have a look underwater from time to time. Unfortunately I didn't have my swiming goggles to hand when we saw the shark so it looked a bit hazy to me while I was under- but I was able to see it swim past the first time.

The shark obiously had a clearer view and the second time I rolled infront of it and it decided that it didn't like the look of me so shot off!

I wouldn't want to disturb a happy shark, but it carried on feeding as almost straight away so I don't think I spoilt its day. It certainly made mine.