A lone kayaker has captured “thrilling” footage of a close encounter with a 30ft whale off the coast of Cornwall.
Rupert Kirkwood, 62, from Holsworthy in Devon, filmed the moment he was circled by a Minke whale for 20 minutes while paddling offshore near Fowey.
Mr Kirkwood told the PA news agency: “Whales are very difficult to spot because they just roll off the surface without a splash and then they go.
“The beauty of them – which always makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck – is the noise of the blowhole.
“If I had been in a boat with an engine and not a kayak, there would have been no way I would have seen (the whale) because it guided me to it with the noise.
“The whole experience was absolutely thrilling.”
The former farm vet who has a “passion for natural history”, has been kayaking for 17 years but began dedicating most of his time to it after he took an early retirement five years ago.
Since he began his hobby, Mr Kirkwood has clocked up nearly 30,000 miles of paddling and spotted around 25 whales.
The father-of-four regularly posts updates on his blog, called The Lone Kayaker, including photographs and videos taken on his adventures.
“An interest in natural history is in my blood and I’ve always had an absolute passion for it,” Mr Kirkwood said.
“When I’m kayaking I often come across dolphins, who are quite social, and all sorts of other amazing creatures like basking sharks, giant tuna, sunfish, and even one leatherback turtle.
“I’m always thrilled to see seals and in the early mornings, otters – which are up there with my favourite creatures.”
Despite regularly coming into close contact with wild animals, Mr Kirkwood said he has never felt threatened by them.
“Even when it’s a 30ft whale that could tip me out of my kayak with a single movement, it knows I’m there and it’s in total control,” he said.
“Many of the creatures actually come towards a kayak because it breaks up the boring monotony of the sea.
“I don’t feel threatened by them at all, they always come over to have a look at me and it’s the same for the whales.
“Even when I was watching a basking shark, which can be around 25ft long and a bit more sinister, it had no interest in any bad intent.”
However, Mr Kirkwood said the biggest danger he faces is the sea and recommended that anyone interested in taking up kayaking should be prepared.
“I do take a barrage of safety equipment with me and I always wear a life jacket,” he said.
“I called in with Fowey Coast Watch when I paddled out yesterday because there’s people who sit on top of a cliff looking out with binoculars, so I radioed in to tell them my plans.
“I always take a phone with me of course, a GPS personal locator beacon and flares – just in case of problems.”
Mr Kirkwood’s children share his keen interest in wildlife and have been helping him share his videos on social media.
Cornish Sea kayaking at its most thrilling. Befriended by a30ft Minke whale (six miles) off Fowey today. Blog post still to come! pic.twitter.com/XHxTffc7F6
— TheLoneKayaker (@KayakerLone) August 8, 2022
One video of his close encounter with the Minke whale, posted on Twitter, has racked up over 101,000 views.
“The children are very excited about that,” Mr Kirkwood said.
“My eldest son Henry, who now lives in Bristol, is studying to be a surveyor but he is a very talented wildlife photographer.
“He helps me put together videos to post online.
“The more people I share the videos with the better as far as I’m concerned. I just feel guilty that I get to have all the fun.”
To find out more about The Lone Kayaker, visit: https://thelonekayaker.wordpress.com/