MAJORCA marine experts have prepared an emergency rescue plan to protect a pod of up to 100 Pilot whales which have been discovered just a mile off the bay of Palma.
The whales - some measuring up to six metres long and weighing nearly three tonnes - are believed to be disorientated and in danger of beaching themselves.
The whales were first sighted last Saturday evening and experts at Marineland in Puerto Portals have been anxiously monitoring their movements since Sunday morning.
Pilot whales are the species most commonly associated with mass strandings.
They are led by one male member of the pod and if he for some reason becomes lost and is drawn into the shore, the rest will blindly follow.
Marineland officials have drawn up a procedure to coax the whales away from the shoreline if they swim any closer and they also have back up plans to protect the whales should they become stranded.
Marineland spokesperson Sevgi Yaman said It is a rare and remarkable sight to see these whales so close to the shore. We do not remember a time in recent years when this has happened in Majorca, but we are also concerned for the safety of these whales. We have counted 60 whales but there are possibly up to 100 in this pod. We do not know why they are here. Maybe it is because the fishing is good but it is more likely that they are confused and disorientated. Pilot whales are native in the Mediterranean, but they usually live in the open ocean, so it is worrying to see them so near the shore. We are ready to do everything we can to stop them becoming stranded. We have boats on standby to guide them away from the shore. If they do become stranded, we have people ready with the right materials to protect them from the sun and from becoming dehydrated. We are keeping a close watch on the situation. A group of British holidaymakers spotted the whales on Saturday evening. Captain Greg Davies, who was skippering a 68ft Sunseeker Predator for owner Paul Strickland and his family and friends, saw the whales near Marivent Palace, where the Spanish royal family is currently on holiday.
Mr Davies immediately cut the engine and drifted the boat towards them. The whales are known to be a curious and friendly species and they soon swam alongside. Mr Davies, 26, said: I thought they were dolphins at first but as they came nearer you could see they were whales. There were so many of them, it was an incredible sight.
I lowered the back platform and we sat on the edge and they swam right up to us. They were nuzzling the side and brushing their tails against our feet. They were making noises and spurting water. It was magical and everyone was in awe of the scene.
Mr Davies, Mr Strickland and his friend Alan Brown all entered the water with masks and goggles and swam amongst the whales. Mr Strickland, 37, who owns one of the UK's leading elevator installation companies, said:
I have swum with dolphins in the Bahamas, but that was controlled for tourists and was nothing compared to this. We were surrounded by the whales but we never felt threatened. We even saw little calves about a metre long swimming alongside their parents.
The whales were incredibly friendly. When you put your head under the water you could hear them making noises and talking to one another.
They would swim under us and blow huge bubbles of air up to you. They would also swim by and roll over so you could see their white bellies. I touched a few of them. It was as if they were having as much fun as us. It was a truly amazing experience.
Mr Brown added: It was spectacular and something I will remember forever.
Although there was no injury to anyone in the water, Marineland last night issued an urgent warning for people not to swim with the whales.
Sevgi Yaman said: Pilot whales are friendly and are not considered to be dangerous, but there are young calves here and the males are known to attack if they sense any danger. They can cause bad injuries with their tales and they have been known to drag swimmers deep down in the water and drown them. We strongly advise people to stay out of the water. Also, if you approach the whales in a boat, turn the engine off and do not do anything to alarm them, such as make loud noises. Also, do not encircle the pod. They must always have a route to swim away or they could become panicked. People can enjoy this sight, but above all they must be aware for the safety of these whales.