Shane Stigants Kayaking Tale: Two odd behaviours in a shark.

Here is an account of the unusual basking shark behaviour witnessed on Friday 20th July 2007. Both occurrences happened towards the end of a vigil on 4 sharks (6 to 8 M) in the strand line area about 0.5 miles off Fleshwick. The sharks were well spaced, over 100m between individual sharks. However at one point two of the sharks did cross paths and separated without any interaction that was obvious to me. I was sat in the area in the kayak for about 3 hours. The sea had a slight ripple though oily calm within the strand line that was about 15m wide and stretched from Brada head to Niarbyl. The strand line had a good number of associated moon jelly-fish and some the same size that looked like ww2 parashutes. There was a shoal of fish, presumably mackerel that boiled on the surface at times which was eagerly anticipated by several greater black backed gulls.

One shark which I had watched feeding for several minutes stopped and shook itself, not violently, more like a shiver. At the time it was about 20 m away from me so I could not see any detail as to whether it still had its mouth open of closed etc. I can’t even tell you the sex. The shiver was most evident in the dorsal fin area that was well out of the water. The closest other shark I could see was probably 100m or so away.

The second odd occurrence was when I started to make for shore after watching a shark zig zaging through the strand line feeding. I allowed the shark to pass me for the last time before I started paddling for the coast. The shark however turned again to follow me and swam up to the tail of my kayak. I speeded up being concerned that I was now in its way but the shark kept a pace with me. The shark dropped slightly lower in the water so that the dorsal fin was no longer on the surface but looking back I could still see the white of the open mouth as it followed me much faster than its previous feeding speed. It took a good 30 seconds of brisk paddling before I could no longer see it behind me. I kept on looking back but did not see it again.

Craig once told me that a shark he was watching some years ago seemed to home in on his paddle strokes. He was similarly unnerved and got out of the way as best he could.