Monday, 28 June 2010

Basking sharks in Point waters

I was on the Isle of Lewis for the weekend, where I had to give an address to the prize giving ceremony at the Nicolson Institute, a daunting prospect but in the event an enjoyable experience. I'll post about it later if I can.

The highlight of the trip was not my speech but the Point basking sharks.

These amazing creatures, two adults and a calf, were just offshore between the Braighe and Ramadal for two days, and only disappeared when the England v Germany game started.

They had fins the size of dining tables but photos from the shoreline don't really do them justice. There's a report on the Heb News website.

There's more information about the sharks, whales really, on the Basking Shark project website and Sea Trek safari on the west coast of Lewis has reported sightings of up to ten basking sharks in the last month.

We used to see schools of basking sharks off Point in the early 70s but they seemed to have disappeared for a long time.

I went for a close-up look early yesterday morning and standing on my own on a skerry with that huge fin doing lazy circles just 20 or 30 metres offshore was quite intimidating.

They're harmless and toothless but their sheer size, and the fact that they are mostly hidden from view, gives you that instinctive, tingling sensation which would be hard to ignore if you were in a small boat and didn't know what they are. It's easy to see how from such encounters come stories of sea monsters.

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