A group of about 40 whales have drifted off course and ended up off the Essex coast.

Volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue have joined Essex Police’s marine unit to check on the animals near the Brightlingsea coast.

It is believed to be the first sighting of pilot whales near the shore in East Anglia since the 1930s.


Emma Webb, area co-ordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue, recorded video footage of the whales yesterday.

A police helicopter has assisted in monitoring the whales.

DC Simon Lofting, from the Special Branch Marine Unit, said: "We have had small numbers of dolphins and porpoises off Essex but this is the first time so many whales have been seen.

"We had been out the previous day on The Thames when there were sightings off Southend and Kent, but we did not find them.

"But on Tuesday following sightings in the River Blackwater we were contacted by British Divers Marine Life Rescue and asked to assist.

"We had an expert from BDMLR on board our boat and he had real concerns that the whole pod could strand themselves.

"The helicopter did an amazing piece of work, not only moving the whales from shallow water but counting them accurately when the pod had split."

See tomorrow's Gazette for the latest.