The Basking Shark in Shaky bay
The basking shark. Photo: Birgit F. Unger.
My second trip, with my father Hörður as captain, today in the fog was something I'll never forget and probably never experience again, but never say never! I always say to the passengers when we´re heading out that every trip is unique and this was no exeption. First we saw a fine minke whale and then later a really relaxed humpback that later "half jumped" for us, showing flippers and belly. Then we saw a Gannet, the queen of the Atlantic, my first one this summer. Well on our way back we stopped by two more humpbacks, served hot chocolate and headed towards the harbour. Just right out of the harbour some passengers started to point and I saw something that looked like a harbour porpoise at first but it never went down like whales always do and then my father shouted "It's a shark! And hasn't been seen on the surface for about 40 years!". Well my father meant that he hadn't seen one or known of anyone who had seen a shark like this one since he was a 14 year old boy going out to fish with his father. I was so amazed and as well all the passengers and it just came closer and closer to us and finally so close that it was only about half a meter from the bow of our boat Knörrinn!! Really crazy feeling seeing the fin sticking up like that and suddenly it started moveing around and we saw clearly the head and the open JAW!
This was the Basking Shark (ísl: beinhákarl) Cetorhinus maximus from 6,7-8,8 meters in lenght, can be up to 12 meters. I read on an icelandic sience web that the usually swims in the surface where there's the most food for it and in Iceland it's mostly around the south coast. It swims with its enormous big mouth open and it's estemated that every hour it's filtering 2.000 litres of sea and thereby feeding on krill and other tiny living things in the sea. The liver in the Basking Shark can weigh up to 25% of its total weight and that's why it's floating so easily in the surface. Now the shark is endangered today so hunting is being cut down dramaticly but it was precious for years because of the oil in the liver. As well the meat is popular and the fin is a very expensive dish on the asian foodmarket. (1/2 kilo of dried shark fin can be sold for 350$). Source: Vísindavefurinn : http://visindavefur.hi.is/svar.php?id=3755)
A closer look. Photo: Hermann Neulen.
Basking shark and diver. Photo borrowed from Wikipedia.org.