"I have never seen a Basking Shark this close to shore in 90 feet of water off the coast (of) South Laguna Beach," said Capt. Tom White in a news release.
The Encyclopedia Britannica describes the shark as a "huge, sluggish shark of the family Cetorhinidae. ... Named for its habit of floating or slowly swimming at the surface, the basking shark inhabits temperate regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans."
The encyclopedia says the giant shark grows as long as 46 feet and "is exceeded in size among fishes only by the whale shark."
Basking sharks are not considered dangerous. They eat plankton.
Capt. Larry Hartmann, who was also on the boat, characterized the encounter about a half mile off the beach across from Three Arch Bay as "off the charts."
"It was amazing," he said. "It took us about two hours to decompress."
"You don't expect to see something enormous like that that weighs about 6,000 pounds this close to shore," said Hartmann. "And then he decided to swim right in front of the boat and had his mouth wide open. He then swam under the boat and popped up on the other side."
Hartmann scrambled to get a camera and started snapping pictures.
"The tail was so enormous that it was just sort of shocking actually," said the 46-year-old captain. "It was nice to see such a beautiful animal."
The noon whale watchers also found gray whales, dolphin, and sea lions on the trip, the news release said..
CLICK TO SEE VIDEO, courtesy of Dana Wharf.