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Cromer fisherman's close encounter with Norfolk whale 'Scroby Dick'

PUBLISHED: 06:46 12 November 2013

Cromer fisherman Keith Shaul.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Cromer fisherman Keith Shaul. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

A fisherman has told of his close encounter with the humpback whale that has been swimming off Norfolk's shores after it came within feet of his boat.

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

Keith Shaul was fishing for herring with his ten-year-old grandson James when the huge mammal appeared in front of them, flashing its back and tail.

The 66-year-old Cromer fisherman said the creature came out of nowhere and believes it swam into his net to snaffle some of his catch.

“It was nice and peaceful, there was a bit of a swell, and then all of a sudden about 50 - 100 foot away from us, alongside the nets, it just went mad,” he said.

“It’s tail was smashing and then the nets started to go down. I got ready to cut them free and then they came back up again and that was it.

“When I hauled the nets in there was a great big hole in them.”

Mr Shaul said he had spotted the odd basking shark while out at sea, but never before seen a whale.

He added: “It was the wrong colour for a basking shark, it was too dark. One of the other fishermen was in the area as well, hauling his crab gear, and he thought he saw something.”

Mr Shaul described the experience as “unusual” but thought there might be more than one whale dining out in the area.

“Obviously there’s plenty of food out there for it,” he added. “It’s not necessarily the same one. I can’t see that they all swim around on their own, if there’s food for one there’s food for others.

“I was just glad it didn’t get tangled in the nets, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to it.”

Mr Shaul’s encounter happened about a mile and a half off Trimingham gap on Saturday lunchtime and coincides with further sightings of the whale - dubbed ‘Scroby Dick’ - off the east Norfolk coast over the weekend.

Robin Chittenden, 53, from Norwich, said he heard a report of a sighting on Sunday but the whale was further out to sea, compared to when it was spotted during its first visit.

Mr Chittenden, who runs Birdline East Anglia, said: “It is following the herring shoals. Wherever the best herring is, the whale will be found.”

He added it would be a bit tricky to locate and wildlife enthusiasts would have to use a telescope to find it.

But one sign to look for is gannets, which surround whales when they are feeding on herring.

Mr Chittenden said the number of herring this autumn was larger than normal.

“If the herring stock keeps increasing there is no reason why we should not expect to see more humpback whales,” he added.

The whale was first spotted off Hemsby on October 29 when it was just 600m from shore.

It moved to Winterton-on-Sea, where it swam and fed in front of onlookers for at least two hours, then went on further to Horsey and Sea Palling in the days afterwards.

■ Have you seen the humpback whale off Norfolk’s coast? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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