This weekend, I had an amazing and very rare experience of being able to watch a humpback whale from a beach in South Devon. I was lost for words and close to tears as the whale surfaced and blew literally 50 metres away. The steep shingle beach at Slapton gave us a unique opportunity to observe a 'Blue Planet' moment right here in cold and grey Devon! As well as the whale, there were dolphins, seals and gannets all involved in a feeding frenzy on what the Cornish call “silver darlings” - pilchards to you and me.
But the whale stole the show. There were about one hundred onlookers who stood for hours waiting for the tell-tale spout. We would then see the hump of the whale four or five times, a quick glance of the fluke and then it was gone. Fifteen mins later the whale would appear again. Every pair of eyes was needed to relocate the whale, which moved surprisingly long distances underwater. There was a hushed silence while we waited with the sound of the waves in the background and then you would hear the spout again: water shot over ten feet from the surface and dispersed in the wind. There was the odd 'wow' from the crowd, but mainly the watchers were just silently memorised by this magical moment.
The whale seemed to be moving along the beach, possibly forcing the pilchard to run into shallower water where the dolphins and seals were gorging themselves on these highly nutritious fish.