Our globe-trotting Chair of Trustees, Robin Petch, has just returned from a North Atlantic voyage on MV Boudicca. Between Lisbon and Gran Canaria, he recorded a rarely sighted cetacean, the Pygmy Sperm Whale! This species has been recorded in UK waters but is rarely seen anywhere. What makes the encounter even more exciting is that a fellow passenger, Sarah Friend, was able to take photographs described by experts in the species as probably the best taken in European waters!
This encounter was the most exciting of a two week voyage which also included Common, Striped, Atlantic Spotted and Bottlenose Dolphins as well as Pilot, Fin and Sperm Whales. Reports and photographs from all of Robin’s voyages can be found on his website www.TheWhaleandDolphinMan.co.uk
The Pygmy Sperm Whale is one of three sperm whales, the other two being the sperm whale and dwarf sperm whale. An amazing fact about the Pygmy Sperm Whale is when threatened they can release a dark ink to blind their predator while they escape unharmed, using their flippers and fluke to produce a large blinding cloud of ink.
The Pygmy sperm whale is not much larger than many dolphin species, growing to about 3.5m at maturity. They have a creamy underside, with occasionally a pinkish colour, their back and siles are a bluish grey with a whitish marking, often described as a “false gill”, is seen behind each eye.
Photo credit: Sarah Friend
Whitby Whale Watching / Whitby Coastal Cruises
Brewery Steps, St Ann’s Staith, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3PW
Contact: Paul Hobson 07981 712419
Vessel: Summer Queen is a large vessel with three different outdoor decks, one of which is undercover, as well as a heated saloon with hot and cold drinks and confectionery available. The vessel can carry over 100 passengers but typically only carries 12 for offshore Whale Watching and 50 for inshore Whale Watching and Wildlife and Coastal Scenery trips
Trips: Whale watching trips now only operate in September when Minke Whale numbers are at their peak along the Yorkshire Coast. Other species occasionally seen include Fin, Sei and Humpback Whales as well as White-beaked and Bottlenose Dolphins. Harbour Porpoise are also sighted quite frequently in this area. Grey Seals are numerous in the area with a colony at nearby Ravenscar and many seabirds are also seen with RSPB Bempton a short flight away. Trips must be booked online and usually sail at 0900, 1230 & 1545 on Summer Queen.
Earlier in the season, particularly July and August, Summer Queen will operate late afternoon/evening Wildlife and Coastal Cruises which sometimes also encounter cetaceans. These are advertised and only available to book at the quay, no online or telephone bookings are taken.