Kayaker in Orleans may have been chased by plankton-eater, rather than great white shark

Walter Szulc Jr., in kayak at left, looks back at the dorsal fin of an approaching shark at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass. in Cape Cod on Saturday, July 7, 2012. An unidentified man in the foreground looks towards them. No injuries were reported. The previous week, a 12- to 15-foot great white shark was seen off Chatham in the first confirmed shark sighting of the season according to a state researcher. Two more sightings were reported Tuesday, July 2, 2012. The same waters are filled with seals, which draw the sharks because they are a favorite food of the animal. (AP Photo/Shelly Negrotti)
Novice kayaker Walter Szulc Jr. looked back at the fin that was pursuing him on Saturday. It was Szulc’s first time kayaking.Shelly Negrotti/AP

The kayaker who raced to shore in Orleans Saturday with a menacing dorsal fin in pursuit may have been chased by a plankton-eating basking shark, rather than a ferocious great white, the state’s shark expert said today.

Greg Skomal, the expert with the Division of Marine Fisheries, said photographs of the shark’s fin suggest it may have been the less dangerous fish.

“By all indications, I think it’s a basking shark,” he said this morning.

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After being alerted to a shark near his boat Saturday, novice kayaker Walter Szulc Jr. spent about 90 seconds racing to shore before the shark turned away.

“I paddled like there was no tomorrow, like my life depended on it,” he told the Globe on Monday. “And it’s quite possible that was the case.”

Officials are still looking at photographs and trying to interview witnesses so they can confirm the species of the shark, Skomal said Tuesday morning.

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