A PAIR of angling vessels had an up-close encounter with a giant from the deep recently.
Last week the Gazette reported how Sea Otter 2 and Mistress had pictured what they believed to be a minke whale rubbing up against their boats, but wildlife experts have now confirmed that the animal was in fact an extremely rare juvenile humpback whale.
Sea Otter 2 Skipper Paul Kilpatrick estimated the youngster to be about the same size as his 10-metre vessel and said: “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.”
The youngster was first seen by those aboard Sea-Otter 2 as they fished nine miles north east of Whitby.
The juvenile began to rub and caress itself against the bottom of the boat and Paul added: “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. They radioed to say it was doing exactly the same to their boat.”
The encounter with the crew aboard the Mistress can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwKzFaqnT8A.
Adult humpbacks can grow to between 12-16 metres and weigh up to 35 tonnes and Sea Watch Trustee Robin Petch said: “ Its behaviour suggests 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 has been 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.”
If you have witnessed similar behaviour or seen a humpback and its mother together along the east coast, contact Sea Watch sighting officer Danielle Gibas at 01545 561227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.