Open water swimming is increasing in popularity. Perhaps even more so with our local beach making national news. Conservationists say “signs are positive” for the survival of a 30ft (9m) whale swimming off Dorset.
The northern bottlenose, named Gilbert after the RNLI lifeguard who spotted him, has been seen around Bournemouth Pier and in Poole Bay. A full health assessment has yet to be carried out but vital signs, including his breathing, appeared good.
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On Saturday divers are planning to take a look underwater for signs that the whale has been feeding normally. It had been feared the mammal may become dehydrated feeding on small fish in the area, rather than its usual diet of squid, as it gets water from food.
Trevor Weekes, from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), said divers will go down near spots where the whale has been seen to try to establish how much whale food is available.
He said they want to know if he is actually feeding or “just going through the motions” and looking like he is.
“If they find lots of seaweed it’s a good sign because that means there is fish there but if they just find sand that’s not a good sign,” Mr Weekes said.
He said although Gilbert moved “slightly further” away from the shore on Thursday, it was still “unusual” to see a whale seemingly happy to stay so close to shore in an area its not used to.
“In these situations usually the whales quickly deteriorate before beaching or getting stranded. But this is a very unusual case where Gilbert seems perfectly happy swimming and feeding so close to shore. We have yet to inspect him closely but the signs are positive. His breathing seems strong and he appears to be feeding well.”
Mr Weekes admitted it is impossible to coax Gilbert out to the English Channel in his current position and the hope is he will leave on his own accord.
RNLI lifeguard Nick “Gilbert” Smith spotted the whale during a patrol a few days ago.
Rescuers have praised sailors for not taking boats too near to Gilbert but said anyone is welcome to observe the mammal from the shore.