11 February 2008
two humpback whales seen off Yell last week surfaced just north of Bressay
yesterday afternoon (Sunday).
Ornithologists Martin Heubeck and Paul Harvey were on their way back into
Lerwick on the survey vessel Dunter III after a winter seabird count around the
shoreline of Nesting when skipper Jonathan Wills received a message from Robbie
Leask, out fishing off the Score Point, Bressay.
Mr Leask said he'd been watching two whales for over an hour, from about half a
At first they were thought to be minkes but as Dunter III edged closer it became
clear that they were humpbacks.
"When we were about 500 metres away I cut the engines and we just drifted," Dr
Wills said. "After 15 minutes or so the smaller of the two animals, about nine
metres long, circled the boat twice and then dived right under us. We could see
its white flippers under water.
“It was an amazing encounter and the first time I'd seen a humpback in 16 years
of looking for them around Shetland. I missed one off Sumburgh by five minutes
about 10 years ago."
The whales were still feeding in the area at sunset, an hour later.
Dr Wills appealed to anyone else who saw the whales to follow the whale watching
code: "All you have to do is shut down the engines and the sonar and wait. Like
orcas and minkes, these are very curious animals and if you're patient they'll
almost certainly come up close for a look at you. If you chase them at speed
you'll just scare them off."
Local amateur photographer Roy Longmuir, who was crewing on the Dunter III
yesterday, got some close-up pictures which will now be analysed to see if the
whales can be identified from the markings on their fins and tail flukes.