Paul gets snapping as he swims with sharks

Banbridge photographer Paul McCambridge captured this picture of a basking shark feeding on plankton near the Isle of Man.
Banbridge photographer Paul McCambridge captured this picture of a basking shark feeding on plankton near the Isle of Man.

A Banbridge man got quite a shock while swimming off the coast of the Isle of Man last week when a monstrous shark swam up alongside him.

Luckily for Paul McCambridge the fin that emerged from the murky depths belonged to a basking shark - a huge plankton-eating filter feeder that posed no threat to Paul or his fellow open water swimmers.

Photographer Paul McCambridge at the MV Plassey shipwreck on the Aran Islands. The Inisheer shipwreck features in the intro of the Father Ted TV series.

Photographer Paul McCambridge at the MV Plassey shipwreck on the Aran Islands. The Inisheer shipwreck features in the intro of the Father Ted TV series.

“The encounter was early last week near the Isle of Man,” the 50-year-old explained. “We were swimming around the southern island off the Isle of Man when we happened upon two or three basking sharks feeding. It was a surprise when one of the basking sharks came ever closer to us and swan right under us then circled as it was feeding.

“It was a bit of a shock when it came underneath me. You see the fin and then you see the nose and you think ‘boy, that’s a biggy’. It came round the boat and right underneath me.

“It must have been nine metres plus easily. It was an unbelievable experience. It was beautiful to see and it’s good that they don’t attack humans.”

The freelance photographer took full advantage of the situation, swimming with the shark for around 45 minutes and taking plenty of pictures.

Having been a competitive swimmer in his youth, Paul took up open water swimming around 10 years ago and has been in love with the sport ever since. He was in the Isle of Man doing research for a new book.

Last year, Paul and Hillsborough writer Maureen McCoy published ‘Wild Swimming in Ireland’ - a book detailing the 50 best open water swimming spots around Ireland. The pair are now researching more wild swimming spots around the British Isles in preparation for publishing a second book, which will cover around 200 places, coastal and inland, that are a must-try for keen open water swimmers.

Swimming with the basking shark wasn’t Paul’s first close encounter with marine life. The previous week while on another research trip he enjoyed an eventful swim with a wild dolphin off the coast of the Aran Islands.

“It took umbrage at me using the camera and it flicked water at me to warn me off. I got out of the water, put the camera gear down and went on down the beach and got in again. I swam away from the dolphin but it came down beside me and was flashing its belly and that’s a sign that it’s comfortable, so I think it must have been something to do with it not liking the camera gear or whatever noise it makes,” he explained.

“I normally have encounters with jellyfish - that is the normal enemy of anyone swimming in the sea. I’ve been stung numerous times and was even stung at the Isle of Man when I was taking pictures of the basking shark, but you just get on with it.”

Paul and Maureen are hoping their new book, as yet untitled, will be on sale next year.