A young humpback whale that rubbed and caressed itself along two fishing boats in an area of sea known as 9-mile ground off Whitby, may have lost its mother, fear experts from the marine research and conservation charity Sea Watch.
The youngster was first seen by those aboard Sea-Otter 2 as they fished at 9-mile ground – an area of calm sea nine miles North East of Whitby. Adult humpbacks can grow to between 12-16metres and weigh up to 35tonnes, but skipper Paul Kilpatrick, a member of the Whitby Sea Anglers Forum, reckoned their friendly youngster was about the same size as his vessel – around 10metres.
He says:“I have never seen behaviour like it. It suddenly appeared and started rubbing against the boat, swimming under and around us and then rubbing its belly on the boat .
“It stayed for about 20 minutes, and when we had to move on it went over to the Mistress which was fishing about half a mile away , and they radioed to say it was doing exactly the same to their boat .
“We see minke whales off Whitby most years, and there had been reports of humpbacks off the North East coast of Scotland, but this is the only encounter we know about locally.”
You can see the encounter with the crew aboard the Mistress at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwKzFaqnT8A
Sea Watch Trustee and local co-ordinator Robin Petch says: “ Its behaviour suggest that of a young animal that has somehow become separated from its mother . It sounds as though to was trying to bond. Rubbing its belly on the boat mimics suckling behaviour of a calf towards its mother..
“ I have grave worries for this youngster. My hope is that it was reunited with its mother, but if it has become lost, or the mother has perished, it would be very unlikely to survive for very long. We would urge anyone who has either witnessed similar behaviour or seen a humpback and its mother together along the east coast to contact Sea Watch sighting officer Danielle Gibas at 01545 561227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org ”