Tale of a whale who came to visit Scilly

Scilly whales off St Martins

Anna Cawthray of Scilly Seal Snorkelling and St. Martin's Dive School tells the story of how she, together with Fay Page of Fay Page Silver Jewellery, happened across the unusual sighting of a Bowhead whale - a sighting that turned out to be of global significance! Words by Anna; photos by Fay Page

St. Martin’s is a beautiful island with stunning views, white sandy beaches and overlooked by the iconic Daymark. Its natural environment supports nationally important species of plants, insects and mammals.  However, on Friday 20th February, a sighting, during a stroll with a friend, resulted in a species record for St. Martin’s of global significance. 

Having had a pleasant walk up to the Daymark and along the coastal path past Perpitch, Fay Page and I arrived at the top of Par Beach where we decided to come off the track and continue along the beach.  A hundred yards later, Fay spotted something in the water.  It was high water with some of the biggest tides of the year so we knew it couldn’t have been rocks. Initially, we thought it was a seal, albeit a very large one but, as we got closer, we realised to our amazement that it could only be a whale! Incredibly about 5 – 10 metres from the beach, just resting in the shallows, was an actual real life whale.  It didn’t appear to be distressed, but we were worried it could get stranded as the tide receded. Occasionally, it gently rolled to one side; it stuck its snout out of the water and also spouted from its blowhole.  The one thing we both commented on was the relatively pale colour of its lower jaw. Luckily Fay had her phone with her to take photos – no one would have believed us otherwise I’m sure. 

I was only going to see a whale at Par Beach once in my life and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in the water with it.  After deciding I didn’t have time to nip along the beach to the Dive Shed, there was no option but to go in the water without a wetsuit.  The sea was, unsurprisingly, bone-chillingly cold; however I was so caught up in the excitement of the moment it hardly seemed to matter.  I was able to enjoy the company of the whale as it lingered for a further five minutes before disappearing quietly beneath the waves and swimming away.