Video: Sir David Attenborough's Wild Isle orcas spotted off Northumberland coastline

15.05.23 Orca Northumberland Credit: Ben Fordy
Fishermen spotted the rare sighting of a pod of orca whales off the coast of Seahouses, Northumberland when out trawling for lobsters and crabs. Credit: Ben Fordy

A pod of orcas that featured in a Sir David Attenborough documentary series have been filmed off the Northumberland coast.

Fisherman Ben Fordy of Howden, Newcastle and his skipper, Rob Redpath of Beadnell, first spotted the killer whales on their boat Sea Menace on Thursday 11 May.

They cast away from the shores of Seahouses and made their way past Longstone Lighthouse in the outer group of the Farne Islands.

Mr Fordy said: "It was the time of what is known as 'the slack' - the time between the tide being out and coming back in. We could see something bobbing up and down in the water and were really worried someone was in trouble this far out to sea."

As the crew were now eight miles out to sea, Mr Fordy and Mr Redpath were concerned that the dark shapes they could see in the distance were drifting paddleboarders or windsurfers in distress.

Along with fellow fishermen Jamie Tonka, of Wooler and Peter Dawson, of Seahouses, the crew were taken by surprise to realise that what was actually directly in front of them was a pod of Orca whales.

Mr Fordy, 24, has been sailing since he was only 12-years-old and in that time has seen basking sharks and minke whales when working out at sea.

The Sea Menace crew thought paddleboarders or windsurfers were in distress eight and eighteen miles out to sea. Credit: Ben Fordy

He has even spotted the Orca pod previously in 2020 but he dropped his phone over the side of the boat when trying to film the unique sighting.

This year proved much luckier for Mr Fordy as he managed to capture the Orca pod in all their glory swimming gracefully in the sea.

The Orca whales also happened to be the same ones that appeared on Sir David Attenborough's Wild Isles documentary, when the mammals were spotted off the Shetland Isles.

Mr Fordy was able to film the Orca pod who whale enthusiast Steve Trulock said will likely be in the area looking for porpoises and seals. Credit: Ben Fordy

This is the furthest south this particular pod has been spotted off the British Isles and whale enthusiast, Steve Truluck, said it is because their routes will be "driven by food."

Popular with Orcas are porpoises and seals and Mr Truluck said this is indeed not the first time the pod has been spotted off the Northumbrian coastline.

He said: "They were first spotted in May, 2018 and again in May, 2020."

Mr Truluck, based in Murrayfield Firth, is a member of the Scottish Killer Whale Photo Identification Catalogue collective which was founded in 2008 by scientist, Andy Foot.

When Mr Foot left for Norway, Hugh Harrop and Karen Munro took over the search and Mr Trulock said he told Karen: "They do tend to follow certain routes. Any day now they may well make an appearance.

The Orca pod is known as the 27 and two have been positively identified as brothers with ID34 and ID72. Credit: Ben Fordy

"So when I saw Ben Fordy's social media post and footage of the Orcas off Seahouses we were absolutely chuffed to bits. Karen and I were bowled over."

The enthusiasts catalogue their sightings to help work out the population size. They identify each Orca by their markings, shaping of their fins and an area on their bodies known as the saddlepatch found just behind their dorsal fins.

They collect a sequence of photographs and catalogue who travels with who, those who have died and those who are newborn.

Mr Truluck said it is important to note that "of the famous 27 pod, only two have actually been positively identified - two males who are brothers known as ID 34 and ID 72."

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