Worthing man first to identify rare dwarf sperm whale

A rare dwarf sperm whale photographed off Penzance after rescuers were successful in returning the animal to the sea after beaching
A rare dwarf sperm whale photographed off Penzance after rescuers were successful in returning the animal to the sea after beaching

A WORTHING father was the first man to identify a rare whale species off the Cornish coast – the first recorded sighting in the UK.

Glenn Overington, 50, of Douglas Close, was holidaying with his wife and eight-year-old son Harry when he identified the dwarf sperm whale, which had swum into Mounts Bay, near Penzance.

W42101P11 WH WHALE GT 18.10.11.''  Whale sighting ..........   Glenn and Harry Overington .....  W42101P11.

W42101P11 WH WHALE GT 18.10.11.'' Whale sighting .......... Glenn and Harry Overington ..... W42101P11.

The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest species commonly known as a whale, and usually inhabits deeper, warmer waters.

There have previously only been six recorded sightings of the species in European waters, the most recent in Italy in 2002.

Glenn said the sighting on October 9 was by chance, after he and his family had chosen to stay an extra day on the Cornish coast.

“We were actually driving home, and I’d taken an alternative route,” he said.

“Then we saw loads of people looking down into the bay.

“My wife had a look, as I was driving, and she said she thought it was something interesting, so we pulled over to have a proper look.”

Glenn, who has an active interest in wildlife and volunteers at Shetland Wildlife running whale-watching tours, knew immediately what he was seeing was something special.

“I knew it wasn’t a harbour porpoise, which is what most of the people thought it was,” he said.

“I couldn’t believe what I thought I was seeing.

“So, I scrambled to the car to grab my camera, and managed to take a few shots.”

After sending the photos to a friend to confirm his suspicion, Glenn said he was sure he had seen a dwarf sperm whale.

“They are extremely rare, especially in shallow waters like the UK,” he said.

“I checked the news and online, and when nothing came up of a dwarf sperm whale sighting, we got in contact with Peter Evans.”

Dr Peter Evans, director of the marine research charity Sea Watch, confirmed the creature was in fact a dwarf sperm whale on Thursday.

He said: “Analysis of the images as well as photos and video taken by other members of the public were sufficient to confirm the species’s identity – a dwarf sperm whale, a first for Britain.

“It is one of the increasing number of records of warm water species to be turning up around the British Isles in recent years.”

Glenn said: “It absolutely made what was already a great holiday, a lovely bonus.

“My son Harry was absolutely thrilled to bits. He’s been telling everyone he saw a dwarf sperm whale on holiday.”