Rare species

Humpback whale

Megaptera novaeangliae

A medium sized baleen whale reaching 16 metres in length. The Humpback whale can be easily recognised by its stumpy dorsal fin and knobbles on the back. Their colour is dark grey on the body with a lighter underside

Sightings in Manx waters

This photograph was taken in 2010, 6 miles off Peel, by our volunteer Hannah Keogh whilst aboard the Manx Basking Shark research vessel. This was the first confirmed Humpback whale sighting ever reported in Manx waters. Following this there were no sightings until 19th June 2013, when another one was photographed off Castletown Bay, then on 27th June another possible sighting occurred off Onchan Head. Both locations are on the east of the island.

Orca/Killer Whale

Orcinus orca

The Orca or Killer whale is actually not a whale at all; it was called a Killer whale because of it killing other whales, making it a killer of whales, not a whale itself. It is in fact a very large, robust dolphin with a beakless snout and a body length of up to 10 metres. Colouration is very distinctive; contrasting black and white with a white patch behind the eye and a grey saddle patch behind the dorsal fin.  Males are larger with a very tall straight dorsal fin.

Sightings in Manx waters

We have never had a confirmed sighting, by way of a photograph, of Orca in Manx waters. However, each year we hear tales of these giants passing through our seas. So far, all photographs of assumed Orca actually turned out to be Risso’s dolphins. Both dolphins have the same square, beakless head and tall, straight dorsal fin. Many Risso’s dolphins are very black in white in colour due to heavy scarring and when silhouetted they can look convincingly like Orca. If anyone has a photograph of Orca in Manx waters, please let us know!

Fin Whale

Balaenoptera physalus

The Fin whale is the second largest animal on the planet reaching 28 metres in length. Colouration is brown-grey with a lighter underside. They have a sharp pointed snout and a short dorsal fin ¾ along the back. Their tall blow can be easily seen at the surface unlike the Minke whale whose blow is very rarely observed.

Sightings in Manx waters

This is another species where we have no photographic evidence from Manx waters, but we do have a couple of possible sightings per year. The Fin whale is so large that if the entire back is seen, it could not be confused with any other species in Manx waters.

Humpback whale off the west coast of the Isle of Man

Orca – stock photo from Wikimedia Commons

Fin whales – stock photo from Wikimedia Commons