A GROUP of whale watchers wondered for more than an hour yesterday if the Loch Ness Monster had a long lost cousin swimming near the Arctic.
They were on board the aptly named ship Moby Dick, sailing around the coast of Reykjanes peninsula, off southwest Iceland, when they spotted a strange creature which they knew was not a whale, swimming alongside their boat.
It was nothing like they or the ship's crew had seen before. Could it be some strange monster from the deep?
Helga Ingimundardóttir, who operates the Moby Dick told the Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid: "We saw that there was something other than a whale swimming near the surface. The creature was surrounded by dolphins and it looked like they were trying to help it."
She added: “It swam near the surface for quite some time so we got a good look at it before it disappeared.”
The strange creature turned out to be a turtle which was up to 1.5 metres long (about five feet) and weighing up to 360 kilos. Scientists say such turtles are common in the Mediterranean and off the North American coastline, but are rarely found in the colder Icelandic waters.
She immediately contacted the Icelandic Marine Research Institute about the discovery. Droplaug Ólafsdóttir, a biologist at the institute, said the turtle’s visit is very unusual.
Ms Olafsdottir explained that the ocean temperature is warmest around Iceland at this time of year and believed that could be a possible reason for the turtle getting lost, adding that she did not expect more turtles to follow.
The last time a giant sea turtle was spotted in Icelandic waters was off the eastern Westfjords in 1963. That one was over six feet long and weighed 375 kilos. The turtle is now on display in the Icelandic Institute of Natural History.
It has been a strange time with some unusual sightings for Iceland this summer with temperatures at Mediterranean levels on some days and much of the country suffering a serious drought during June and July.
More evidence that the effects of global warming are moving into the northern fishing grounds came in April when a trawler caught a shark off the coast of Iceland. Sharks, which normally inhabit warm waters, are rarely seen so far north and at a time of year when the sea is still very cold. It measured over five metres long when some fishermen hauled it aboard a trawler.
www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.
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