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Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Tuesday, 29 June 2010 16:50 UK
Rare sighting of sperm whale in Devon
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon


Watch Dean Tapley's whale footage

A Devon man has described how a routine fishing trip off Torbay turned into an "awesome" experience he will remember forever after spotting a sperm whale.

Dean Tapley was out in his boat Naughty Boy at about 9.30am on Monday 28 June 2010 when he spotted the creature.

"It was weird because there were no fish around at all which is really unusual, nothing was biting whatsoever," he said.

"The next thing I saw this black thing on the horizon."

At first Dean thought it was a basking shark but he soon realised it was a whale of some kind.

"But I just thought to myself 'that doesn't happen here'."

Sperm whale off Devon: picture courtesy of Ashley Lane from Paignton Pleasure Cruises.

He spent about half an hour watching the whale and taking pictures before returning to shore and reporting what he had seen to Paignton Harbourmaster who told him to contact the Seawatch Foundation.

They later confirmed he had indeed seen a sperm whale.

The charity received further reported sightings during the day as it headed towards Berry Head.

Ashley Lane from Paignton Pleasure Cruises also saw the whale.

"It was amazing," he said.

"This is an extremely rare sighting as sperm whales are very deep water species, feeding on prey 1,000-2,000 metres in depth," said Gemma Veneruso from the foundation.

It really was a humbling experience - an absolute one-off
Dean Tapley

"This animal has most likely come from the North Atlantic feeding off the edge of the continental shelf and has travelled into shallow water.

"It has been known for these animals to occasionally enter the western English Channel but very rare for the animal to travel as far east as this and so close to shore.

"The most distinguishing feature of the species is the huge square head. This can be one third to one quarter of the total body length of the sperm whale and they can be more than 18 metres in length.

"Another good way to recognise this species is the blow which has a forward and left direction unlike other whales."

And Dean says it is the sound of the water coming out of the blowhole which will stay with him.

"It was just so loud," said Dean.

"It really was a humbling experience - an absolute one-off."

Sea Watch is urging anyone else who sees the sperm whale to report sightings to sightings@seawatchfoundation.org.uk or call 01545 561227.

Do Not Disturb guides for sharks
14 Jun 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Blue Flag beaches in Devon
13 May 10 |  Nature & Outdoors



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