On August 4th, a man fishing from his kayak in the waters off Boscombe beach in Dorset off the southwest coast of England was nearly capsized by a huge mysterious creature he could not identify. The beach was closed by RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) but no creature was found. However, some reported splashes and overheard lifeguards saying “they hadn’t seen anything like it in 35 years.” On August 8th, it was still classified as a “large marine animal” and arguments between marine experts, lifeguards and fishermen resolved nothing. On August 11th, just a few miles away off of Branksome beach, a swimmer practicing to swim around the Isle of Wight, bumped into what may have been the same mysterious creature … and 50 of its friends.
“There were sightings of large marine life at Boscombe beach. The situation is being closely monitored by RNLI lifeguards who are asking visitors to stay away from the water and have put up red flags. RNLI lifeguards flagged the beaches for a short period of time to investigate reports received of unidentified marine life. We still have no confirmation of what the creature was, and everyone going into the sea should enjoy it but, as always, respect the water and exercise an appropriate level of caution, including keeping around 200 metres from marine life for your and their safety.”
The Falmouth Packet reported the August 4th “unidentified marine life” encounter, which forced the RNLI to clear the waters and send lifeguards out on jet skis. Witnesses estimated the mysterious sighting kept them out of the water for an hour. That might have been the end of it … except for Darron Tapper, who was fishing from his kayak at Boscombe beach around the same time.
“I was pulling a lure back into shore and something grabbed that, I almost turned over in my kayak. I spun around and saw a big shadow. When I got back on the beach the jet ski was being launched and the lifeguards were telling everybody to get out of the water. I know what fish are, it was something big. As a fisherman I’ve never heard of a shark in these waters so that was the last thing on my mind.”
Tapper told The Bournemouth Echo he found a hole in his kayak and felt lucky to be alive, especially because he didn’t think it was a shark, even though “I don’t know what else would have the power.” That was on August 5th. The Dorset Echo followed up on August 8th and the RNLI reported it still hadn’t determined what the mysterious marine animal was. Sarah Hodgson, a coastal centers assistant at the Dorset Wildlife Trust, told the Echo that British sharks “aren’t considered to be dangerous or aggressive to humans” and the biggest ones, basking sharks, eat only plankton, so Tapper’s encounter is highly unusual. Peter Tinsley, the marine policy and evidence manager at the Dorset Wildlife Trust, confirmed this, saying local sharks wouldn’t take a lure. He thought it might be a bluefin tuna or a large sunfish.
“Before we set off I had joked about being attacked by sharks and we were laughing about it. Then, during the swim, I started getting bumped and things were nibbling my hands and feet – the parts which weren’t covered by my wetsuit. It was pretty unnerving at first but when I realized what it was I just enjoyed the experience which was amazing. It was fantastic to see so many sharks in the wild just behaving naturally.”
It’s natural for sharks to nibble on your hands and feet? Long distance swimmer Oly Rush apparently thinks so. He told the Bournemouth Echo that on the night of August 11th he was training of Branksome beach (about 5 miles from Boscombe beach) when he encountered what he thought were a few sharks. However, when his support kayaker Ashley McPherson flashed his light on the water, Rush estimated they saw at least 50.
Could one of these sharks have been the mysterious creature that shut down Boscombe beach and attacked Darron Tapper and his kayak? Does anyone really think it was a giant sunfish? If sharks don’t care for humans, why were they tasting Rush’s feet and hands? Are British sharks losing their proper manners and acquiring an affinity for humans? Or did Tapper and the swimmers and lifeguards at Boscombe beach see something else?
As of this writing, the identity of the Boscombe marine beast is still unknown and tourists are now flocking to the beach to look for it.