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Picture update: Humpback whale seen off Norfolk coast watched from Winterton, Horsey, and Sea Palling

PUBLISHED: 15:24 29 October 2013 | UPDATED: 16:01 29 October 2013

A humpback whale was spotted off the Norfolk coast. Seen here off the coast at Horsey. Picture by: Caroline Spinks

A humpback whale was spotted off the Norfolk coast. Seen here off the coast at Horsey. Picture by: Caroline Spinks

Caroline Spinks

A humpback whale has been spotted swimming off the Norfolk coast.

A humpback whale was spotted off the Norfolk coast. Seen here off the coast at Horsey. Picture by: Caroline Spinks A humpback whale was spotted off the Norfolk coast. Seen here off the coast at Horsey. Picture by: Caroline Spinks

The whale was first seen off Winterton-on-Sea about 8.10am today.

It stayed off Winterton, followed closely by flock of gannets, for at least two hours before moving north to Horsey. It was spotted off Cart Gap, near Happisburgh, at about midday and then later at Sea Palling.

Bird watchers armed with long lens telescopes followed the whale as it travelled up the coast, but the last reported sighting was of the humpback heading back out to sea from Sea Palling at 1.40pm.

Humpbacks are one of the most easily recognised whale species. Reaching between 40 and 50 feet in length, they can weigh up to 48 tons.

They are identified from other whales due to their large flippers, almost one-third of their body size, and the hump on their backs and distinctive markings on their underside.

Janet Ainge, who lives near Filby, raced to Winterton when she received a text message from a friend in Derbyshire about the humpback off east Norfolk.

But soon after arriving she was among the crowd of amateur whale watchers getting back into their cars and heading to Horsey where the whale was spotted at 10.55am.

Rob Wilton, of the Lowestoft Bird Club, followed the Norfolk whale from Winterton to Horsey, updating fellow bird watchers through Twitter.

“It was an incredible sight,” he said.

“And it was quite easy to pick out as there was a flock of gannets with it.

“I’ve never seen a whale off Norfolk before. You get them off the Shetlands and Northumberland, but you just don’t expect to see them this far south.”

Rene Baptiste, of Lowestoft, heard about the whale sighting through Twitter and soon jumped in the car with his family to catch a glimpse.

“When the news broke we raced up to Horsey and then onto Sea Paling,” said Mr Baptise, 38.

“We had fantastic views. What an awesome creature to see off the Norfolk coastline.

I watched it off Horsey for about 15 minutes and a further 30 minutes off Sea Palling. Myself, my wife Natalie and children Noah, Jordon and Eden, plus our friends, got soaked by the rain at Sea Palling, but it was well worth it.

“Opportunities like this that just can’t be missed, and are remembered forever.”

Humpbacks whales were first protected as endangered animals in 1966. Currently, it is believed 30,000 to 40,000 humpbacks are left or about 30 percent of their original population.

Earlier this year, a Minke whale washed up on Gorleston beach. Despite efforts, the calf measuring 3m could not survive and had to be put down by a vet.

There were reports of a killer whale off Cromer in 2012, but it was later identified as a white-beaked dolphin.

Did you see the humpback whale? Call reporter Lauren Rogers on 01493 847961 or email pictures to lauren.rogers@archant.co.uk.

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