The world’s largest animal, the blue whale, has been seen in English waters for the first time since the 1900s.
The creature was photographed 250 miles from the coast by scientists aboard the RRS James Cook, which is studying marine life in the Whittard Canyon off England’s south-west coast. Oceanographers believe the photos are the first to show a blue whale in the region since in the early 20th century when they were nearly hunted to extinction in the north-east Atlantic.
The crew captured two photos, one showing the glimpse of spray from the whale’s blowhole and another showing its bluish-gray back and tiny dorsal fin. Chief scientist of the expedition from National Oceanography Centre (NOC) Veerle Huvenne says:
“There was huge excitement on board as many people got a glimpse of their first blue whale, but only later did we realize that this is probably the first to be photographed within English waters. The Biscay margin is already recognised as a hotspot for whales, dolphins and seabirds – our new data further underlines the importance of this area for iconic marine life.”
This sighting, along with others by observers on ferries crossing the Bay of Biscay, indicates the species may be slowly recovering from its near-extinction. Also recorded on expedition were more than 20 fin whales, which are the second largest animal in the world and also endangered.