Not many people think of the basking shark when they imagine the dangers of the deep, but a video recently uploaded by a brave kayaker may add that sea creature to your list of ocean fears.
In the clip at the top of the page, you can see Conor Smith filming himself in a kayak off the coast of the Irish town of Kilkee. The video starts off showing the dorsal fin of the basking shark poking above the water, providing that iconic and terrifying image often associated with a shark attack. But Smith not only remains calm as the basking shark swims around him, but dares to stick his waterproof camera underwater to film the beast in high definition.
At first, the basking shark can’t be seen through the murky water. But after Smith dunks the camera in the ocean a second time, the basking shark swims directly toward the lens. At its closest, the shark is only a foot or two away from the kayak. Thankfully, it has no interest in a human meal and only swims by, opening its massive jaws like it was showing off for the camera. A basking shark mouth can measure up to 3.3 feet.
According to Mashable, basking sharks are considered one of the largest fish on the planet and the second largest shark, reaching lengths up to 11 meters (or 26 feet). They can weigh up to five tons. They can usually be found swimming near the Irish shore between the months of April and September and spend the winter months in deeper water. This particular basking shark was filmed by the kayaker around April 12.
According to Sharks World, basking sharks get their name due to the their tendency to spend the summer months basking in the sun. Even so, scientists and researchers almost never see basking sharks close to the surface, making Conor Smith’s footage a truly rare treat. While the video depicts a pretty heart-stopping encounter with a sea monster that could have seemingly swallowed the kayaker whole, basking sharks are not considered aggressive and do not eat humans. They’re considered filter feeders, which is why the basking shark in the video was swimming with its mouth open, picking up various edible scraps like plankton and filtering out debris and water.
The Daily Mail reported that an entire school of basking sharks was spotted by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group feeding off the coast of Slea Head, County Kerry, around the same day as Smith’s footage was shot.
“They were feeding actively for about three hours,” said wildlife conservationist Andrew Power. “You could see the inside of their huge mouths very clearly under the water as they were feeding. They swam close to the rocks going in circles. It was incredible.”
In fact, the video of the basking shark encounter is only a small taste of the footage captured by the kayaker. The YouTube description of the original promised “fuller clip to follow” of the basking shark sighting. Not long after the short clip was published on the channel, Conor Smith uploaded a four-minute video with the basking shark encounter put into the larger context of his kayak adventure. You can see the full video below.
What do you think about the basking shark encounter? Would you have kept your cool the way Connor Smith did? It seems the kayaker was familiar with basking sharks and knew he was never in any danger. Still, any close encounter with a shark of that size has to be pretty unnerving.
[Photo by Conor Smith, via YouTube]