IN 2007 SHARK EXPERT Richard Peirce was asked to confirm the identity of a large breaching creature in an amateur video taken off north Cornwall. The images were not clear enough for a positive ID, but while remaining noncommittal Peirce, a firm believer that great white sharks are occasional visitors to the UK, couldn’t rule out the possibility.
That was more than enough for the sizzling Sun which, as Peirce puts it, managed to string the story out “for a further eight days, with all the other nationals and many regional papers joining in”.
Front-page pictures of basking sharks’ dorsal fins breaking the water off St Ives were identified by other “experts” as those of great whites, and so the media frenzy continued.
Peirce has covered this subject before in Sharks In British Seas, but his new booklet, which he describes as “a bit of fun”, is dedicated to assembling the evidence for the presence of white sharks in our waters.
The enigma of the title is not whether white sharks visit but why their presence has not already been proven beyond doubt.
After all, they are known to travel long distances and the UK would seem to offer suitable water temperatures and a good supply of nourishing seals to reward their journey. So what’s wrong with our seals?
Like a fair-minded UFO-researcher, Peirce discounts the many equivocal sightings and recalls those that seem to hold water after investigation.
They seem to form two distinct clusters, one in the south-west, the other in Scotland’s western isles.
It’s a quick, fascinating read, and while the topic may well be more fun while it remains speculative, perhaps you’ll be the first UK underwater photographer to get the money shot that turns speculation into fact.
Shark Cornwall Publishing
Softback, 52pp, £4.99