TWO fisherman have told how they had a close encounter with a 20ft shark a few miles off the Scottish coast.
Graeme Carlyle and John Tait were on a regular trips off the coast near Dunbar, East Lothian, when they spotted the basking shark.
The giant creatures are frequently spotted off the west coast of Scotland but it is rarer to see them in the North Sea close to land.
After bravely deciding to get closer, the massive creature “brushed” against their 16ft boat.
The friends, from Musselburgh, East Lothian, first noticed a three-foot fin sticking out of the water.
Graeme, a taxi driver, said: “The first thing we saw was a huge dorsal fin which was two or three feet out of the water.
“I thought it was a killer whale at first because there were some around here last year.
“This was a couple of hundred metres away so we manoeuvred the boat towards it and as we approached we cut the engine to reduce the noise and disturbance.
“At the point the shark just came straight towards us and basically brushed up against the side of the boat.
“The boat is 16 feet long and the shark was longer the boat. We think it must have been 20 feet long, maybe 22.”
The shark was swimming with its mouth wide-open which means that it was feeding on plankton.
Graeme said: “It was so close we could have literally reached down and touched the dorsal fin but we were too busy filming it and taking photos.
“If I had my wet suit with me in the boat, I would’ve jumped in.”
He added: “We just couldn’t believe what we were watching.
“It was around us for about an hour and approached the boat three or four time from different angles – literally within touching distance.
“John has been fishing for more than 25 years and has never seen anything like it. He spoke to the harbourmaster at Dunbar and he was quite envious.
“Basking sharks are spotted around here, but very rarely, and for it to be so close is very unusual.”
He added: “We always see dolphins and porpoises here, but never basking sharks.”
A spokeswoman from the Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “The sharks are much more common off the west coast because in the spring and summer these waters are perfect feeding areas for the sharks.
“The sharks are attracted inshore to these places where the different water masses meet and the plankton it eats is concentrated.”