Latest marine sightings - Winter 2017

Whale sighting

Although whales are recorded in the western part of The Channel, sightings in Dorset are rare. However, walkers on the southwest coast path between Durdle Door and White Nothe spotted a ‘blow’ followed by the dark shape of a back and dorsal fin in the sea just 300m or so offshore. The late November day was cold, bright and clear with an unbroken blue sky and flat, calm sea. Having spotted the blow or vapour cloud marking the whale’s breath as it exhaled at the surface, the onlookers watched the spot for a while and sure enough it appeared again and was clearly seen as it surfaced 4 times before disappearing for around 5 minutes and then surfacing another 4 times. While the distance and lack of binoculars made it impossible to identify the species, it is highly likely that this was a minke whale, the smallest of the baleen whales and one that is most likely to be seen in Dorset.

Read about it in the Bournemouth Echo here...

Whale © Julie Hatcher

Whale © Julie Hatcher

Icelandic cyprine

The Icelandic cyprine, also called the ocean quahog, is a large clam that lives buried in the muddy sand of seabeds. It is easily identified by its size, measuring up to 12cm in diameter with a deep body and oval shape. The two halves of its shell have fine concentric rings which can be used to age the animal. The oldest known individual was one nick-named Ming, found in Iceland, which was calculated to have been 507 years old. In Dorset the shells of these animals can frequently be found washed up along the beach on the seaward side of the Sandbanks peninsula in Poole, especially following stormy weather. It is fascinating to think which king or queen sat on the throne when one of these was just a planktonic larva.

Icelandic cyprine © DWT J Hatcher

Icelandic cyprine © J Hatcher

Algae-covered seal

In early December there were reports of an unusual encounter with an adult male grey seal getting very close to kayakers around the Poole Harbour and Studland Bay area. The reports said the seal seemed lethargic, lying horizontal on the water and that its back appeared to be covered in green algae. Concerned for its welfare DWT contacted the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) to find out if they could do anything for this animal. They reported similar sightings of a seal near the Isle of Wight a few days previously and when photographs were compared it was identified as the same individual. The seal was tracked, via reported sightings and photographs, from the Isle of Wight to Poole Harbour and then Studland Bay, covering at least 80km in just seven days, indicating it was an active animal. Unfortunately it is virtually impossible to examine the health of an active adult grey seal so monitoring its progress is all that can be done. If you spot this seal please report it immediately to us at or if it appears in distress to BDMLR on 01825 765546 or 07787 433412

Male grey seal © J Hatcher

Male grey seal © J Hatcher

Let us know what you find

Have you seen any interesting or unusual marine life in Dorset this autumn?  Please send your sightings, with a photo if possible, to or via Facebook or Twitter.


home  |  Living Landscapes  |  Living Seas  |  Jobs  |  e-news  |  Contact & Find Us | Web site Content Management