John Coe & Aquarius


Famous killer whales ‘John Coe’ and ‘Aquarius’ back in Hebridean seas after being spotted off the English coast for the first time!

Much loved whales John Coe and Aquarius (main image) from the West Coast Community of killer whales were spotted on Wednesday 5th May near Porthgwarra by Will McEnery-Cartwright from the Minack Theatre in Porthcurno, West Cornwall.

Nine days later on the 14th May, the pair were seen back in the Hebrides by Anthony Rigell from Waternish Point, Isle of Skye around 550 miles north of Porthgwarra, and on the 17th May they were spotted off Lochboisdale, South Uist from the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s research vessel, Silurian.

Thanks to the brilliant photographs captured by Will, and his efforts to report and share the sighting, the Sea Watch Foundation, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group have confirmed that this is the first sighting of this famous pair of killer whales off England and the most southerly point they have ever been recorded in the five decades that movements of this small and unique group of killer whales have been tracked by the charities.

Will shared this notable encounter with us, and added “This is a once in a lifetime event. I am so happy and proud to be part of this historical moment. To see these fantastic creatures is one thing, but to photograph them is just breathtaking!!”

John Coe

John Coe

John Coe is one of the most distinctive killer whales seen around the British Isles with a deep nick near the base of his dorsal fin and fluke.

‘’Many people ask how John Coe got his name’’ says Dr Peter Evans, Director of Sea Watch Foundation who has been tracking sightings of killer whales around the British Isles since the 1970s. ‘’It is the name of a character in a book called ‘’Mile Zero’’ by Thomas Sanchez about a freed slave who became a student of the sea. It seemed a fitting name for this great wanderer of the ocean who must know the waters around Britain and Ireland better than most.’’  

These animals truly are a West Coast Community, with sightings recorded largely along the west coasts of Scotland and Wales and all around Ireland. Most sightings have been recorded in the Hebrides off the Scottish west coast, although John Coe has also occasionally been seen even off the north-east coast of Scotland.

The previous confirmed sighting of the pair was reported off Skye in the Inner Hebrides in October 2020, whilst in Ireland, John Coe was last seen off the coast of Co. Donegal in August 2020. The lockdown during the winter months has meant that fewer people than normal were out at sea and around our coasts and as a result the charities have received a smaller number of sightings from the public than normal in the last 18 months.

Photographs ©Will McEnery-Cartwright - Instagram: mc_naturelife