If you’re a big fan of the 1993 film Free Willy, in which an orphaned boy befriends an orca whale, then you’ll be pleased to know about a recent sighting in the UK. An orca (aka killer whale) has just been spotted off the coast of north Wales.
Considering the UK’s resident orca community is particularly small – with eight of the animals thought to roam British waters in total – this presents an incredibly rare opportunity to spot one of them. The community typically arrive in northern Scotland in early summer to feast on fish.
It was photographer David Silcock who was stunned when he saw the whale and captured one of its fins coming out of the water near Criccieth Beach in Gwynedd last Friday. In the image, the orca is seen above water level before disappearing from view.
‘It was definitely bigger than a dolphin but I was that busy trying to judge when and where it would surface and so I didn’t take as good a look as I could,’ he told North Wales Live. ‘I drove down from the viewing point and took the photo from the beach.’
Rather appropriately, the picture was taken during National Whale and Dolphin Watch Week. Surveys and watches will be taking place across the country to create a snapshot of which animals can be seen off the UK coast. That data will allow experts to develop an idea of the distribution of whales, dolphins and porpoises around the country.
However, the Sea Watch Foundation has cast doubt on whether Silcock’s image actually shows an orca, saying that he either saw a bottlenose dolphin or Risso’s dolphin on that occasion.
Whether or not the creature was a whale, there are still other opportunities to spot orcas across the UK. You’ll have the best chance visiting the Shetland Islands, off the north coast of Caithness, Scotland, where sightings take place all year round.