The arrival, during August 1998, of two bottlenosed whales off Pabay was a very rare event. The two bulbous foreheads could be seen breaking the surface just south of the jetty on Pabay. They frolicked in the shallow waters close to the shore and cruised together, leaping out of the water only a few hundred meters from Pabay.

Northern bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus) normally inhabit deep waters, so it is extremely unusual to see them close inshore. Previously common in the North Atlantic, the species was hunted up until 1973. They have been protected since 1977, but the population remains classified as 'vulnerable'. They were easy targets for whalers because they would stay close to their wounded companions, and their natural curiosity often prompted them to approach boats for a closer look.

It is unclear why the whales came so close inshore. One theory is that they had come to feed on the mackerel and other fish, which had also been attracting many gannets into Broadford Bay during August. Dr. Ben Wilson, a world renowned whale expert, has suggested that the whales might have been going out at night to feed in the Inner Sound. This is one of the deepest areas on the British continental shelf, reaching a depth of over 250m in places.

Alison Craig who works at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Lab in Honolulu was most interested in the visit of the whales. She says that their dorsal fins and lateral body pigmentation can identify individual animals. She goes on to say that the photograph is one of the best that the Lab has ever seen of these particular whales.

Hopefully the pair, who we think, is a male and female will visit Pabay again soon!


We are waiting

The photograph was taken by:

MW Photography
2 Balmacquien,
Isle of Skye IV51 9UN

Tel: 01470 552337

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