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24-Foot Basking Shark Corpse Had to Be Forklifted Off a U.K. Beach

It was a rough day at the beach for everyone involved.

By Cassidy Ward
A basking shark filter feeding near the surface of the ocean.

Back in 1975, the fictional residents of Amity Island were rocked by a series of encounters with a massive, predatory fish, a great white shark known to the moviegoing public as Jaws (streaming now on Peacock). More recently, real-world beachgoers at Maidens Beach in the United Kingdom had a startling encounter with an even larger shark. At least, the carcass of one.

The animal’s body was first seen floating just offshore, where onlookers originally thought it might be a stranded whale, according to the NY Post. Rescue groups later arrived and identified the animal as a 24-foot basking shark, who appeared to have recently died.

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U.K. Beachgoers Find 24-Foot Shark Corpse Floating in the Shallows

Twenty-four feet is big enough to make even Quint, the most grizzled of boat captains, have second thoughts, but size isn’t everything when it comes to sharks. Basking sharks can actually get up to 40 feet long but they are mostly harmless as long as you’re not a plankton. They spend their days swimming slowly with their toothless mouths open, filtering thousands of gallons of sea water an hour in search of zooplankton. The biggest risks you have during a basking shark encounter are bumps and scrapes from their lumbering bodies and sandpaper-rough skin.

Beachgoer Yolanda McCall contacted British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) to help in whatever way possible. There was some hope at the beginning that the shark might be alive and could be helped, reports What's the Jam, who spoke with witnesses and snapped photos of the event. But it became clear that the animal was dead by the time anyone had seen it, though the fact that it was almost entirely intact suggests it had died recently.

Rescue teams and onlookers noted a tangled length of rope stretching from around the tail and into its mouth. It’s possible the animal got caught in the rope and died trying to free itself, though the sequence of events wasn’t immediately clear at the scene. Later, the tide went out and onlookers were able to see the animal in its entirety, washed up on the beach. Once there, rescue teams used a forklift to take the fish away.

If you come across a living basking shark in the wild, you shouldn’t be worried, but you should be cautious. Give them as much space as you can, both for their safety and your own. They aren’t looking for you, but they are large, wild animals and they have the home court advantage. Don’t do anything that might make you the subject of a blockbuster movie.

Jaws is streaming right now on Peacock.

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