Blue whale sighting leaves scientists elated

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A blue whale was seen 400 km southwest of Cornwall over a deep-sea canyon on the northern margin of the Bay of Biscay and the scientists who spotted the whale are elated for the fact that the whales are very limited in numbers after the species was nearly wiped out due to extensive whaling.

Images of the blue whale were captured by a science expedition team on-board the RRS James Cook. Photographs of the whale were captured by National Oceanography Centre’s Prof Russell Wynn during a daily marine mammal survey. According to Wynn, the blue whale suddenly surfaced about a kilometre away and that he had just about enough time to “secure some conclusive photos before the visibility decreased and the whale disappeared into the gloom.”

In early 20th century, the blue whales have had to go through a disastrous decline in numbers as they had been hunted to near-extinction in the NE Atlantic region. The latest sighting, along with other reports from observers on ferries may indicate that the numbers of these marine mammals may be recovering slowly.

Dr Veerle Huvenne from NOC, who is Chief Scientist of the CODEMAP2015 expedition said: “There was huge excitement on board as many people got a glimpse of their first Blue Whale, but only later did we realise that this is probably the first to be photographed within English waters.”

Other Sightings during the expedition

The blue whale wasn’t the only marine animals sighted during the expedition. During the expedition, Prof Wynn recorded over 20 Fin Whales using the deep waters of the canyon. On the same day as the blue whale sighting, a broad-billed swordfish was also sighted hundred metres below the surface using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Swordfish sightings are very rare in UK waters, and the footage captured during the expedition may also be the first of this species in the wild in English waters.

The team also recorded up to 12 Blue Sharks that were seen regularly around the ship.