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

Novice kayaker Walter Szulc Jr. looked back at the fin that was pursuing him on Saturday. It was Szulc’s first time kayaking.
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.

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.

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“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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