Basking Shark encounter

By WDC Volunteer Christiana.

If you go on one of my tours of the Tugnet Ice House at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, as well as the history of the ice house and the fishing community that’s been here since the eleventh century, I talk about the model of the basking shark in the main chamber that was donated to us by a local school. Little did I know that this huge model I would soon see in real life.

It was my first week at my position as Autumn Residential Volunteer at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, and Volunteer Co-ordinator Cath took my new work colleague/ housemate Amber and I on a trip to see the dolphins at Chanonry Point. Funnily there were no dolphins at the point itself but we saw several seals swimming.

Grey Seal

A few hours sitting at the beach went by and still no dolphins. We waved to Charlie Phillips, WDC Field officer, who went by on a boat. And Charlie phoned Cath to let her know where the dolphins were. We were off on a quest! We walked further down the beach past the golf club, me looking for sea glass all the walk, and there in the distance with the binoculars, we could see the dorsal fins of the Dolphins! An excellent start to my autumn volunteer position here!

After looking through the binoculars at the dolphins around a far out buoy; including the dolphin Spirtle (famous at the Scottish Dolphin Centre due to its sunburn marks where after stranding she was rescued by marine mammal medics and released back into the water) we headed back to my new home.

We headed back on the hour and a half drive to the Scottish Dolphin Centre and Cath mentioned how in the Shorewatch groups there was talk of basking sharks off the coast of Nairn. I looked at Cath and she looked at me. I saw the road signs. We were about to go through Nairn.

“Cath. Are we done for the day, can we please go see the basking shark?” Cath smiled.

Amber and I had never seen a basking shark before.

We pulled up in a place to park by the coast, by the golf club (not the official Shorewatch site but near enough to where the basking sharks had been seen)
And the basking shark was obvious, or was it?
What I thought was a mother’s fin, and a baby fin circling it…was a dorsal fin, and its tail fin. Basking sharks get to be 11 metres long after all. And this lone individual basking shark was feeding. Cath said this one was about 8 metres long. I got some great views of the individual where I could just about see its nose, its dorsal fin and its tail from my position on the shore.

We watched this basking shark for a good half an hour at least.

Volunteers watching a basking Shark
Amber (left) and me, Christiana (right) looking in awe at the basking shark, Photo taken stealthily by Cath.

I have decided I like basking sharks a lot, the basking shark seemed so peaceful happily filter-feeding off the coast of Nairn.

Basking Shark
Basking Shark

I have started to conduct some research on basking sharks. Did you know?
-A basking shark is the second largest fish in the world, only beaten by the whale shark.
– A basking shark is a filter feeder, eating plankton.
-Basking sharks can live up to 50 years!

One of the biggest problems basking sharks face is disturbance from humans and boats…

While I’d love to see such a creature closer, I’ll stick to watching them from the shore, it SHORE was a magical experience!