SUMMER may just have arrived in Manx waters – if a survey carried out by the Manx Wildlife Trust and the Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch on Tuesday is anything to go by.
‘It was a beautiful day and the sea was alive with wildlife,’ said a MWT spokesman.
‘There were thousands of sea birds, including diving gannets, guillemots, razorbills and Manx shearwaters. We also saw dozens of harbour porpoise.
‘Then we saw a basking shark – the first of the season for the Manx Basking Shark Watch and Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch team, and the first ever for our volunteers.
‘We thought the day couldn’t get much better, until we had a truly amazing encounter with a minke whale. This minke was curious and came right up to the boat. It was circling us, surfacing right alongside us and swimming underneath us. We could see the white bands on its flippers and its triangular-shaped head.
‘The fish-finder showed that we were right over a big ball of fish and it seemed like the minke was using us to help feed on them. None of us had ever been that close to a minke before, even our very experienced skippers on the boat, Girl Pat. I can’t imagine that we will be that lucky again, but it was an incredible experience which will stay with all of us for a long time.
‘Hopefully, this is the start of a great summer for marine wildlife on the island. Time spent at the coast or on the water should reward you with some fabulous sightings of sharks, whales, dolphins and porpoises.
‘We look forward to getting your reports, hearing your stories and seeing your pictures.’
The minke whale is named after a Norwegian whaler Miencke who often harpooned minke, whales mistaking them for blue whales.
Minke whales are also known as little piked whales, pike heads, sharp-headed finner, lesser rorqual, sharp snouted whale, summer whale, bay whale and little finner.
The minke whale is the smallest member of the family Balaenopteridae or rorqual whales, which also includes the blue, fin, sei and Bryde’s whales.
The slender bodied minke whale has a very distinctive narrow, pointed rostrum and a single prominent head ridge. The pectoral fins are slim and very pointed and the dorsal fin is sickle-shaped, positioned approximately two-thirds, towards the tail, along the body length. There are 50 to 70 throat grooves which end just before the navel and just behind the pectoral fins. The minke whale has 230-360 baleen plates, measuring about 20cm in length and 12cm in width at their base, positioned on each side of the upper jaw.