A three-day vigil for whale-watchers stood down this afternoon (Sunday October 21st) with incoming stormy weather making it unsafe for the volunteers to continue any longer.

The watch was sparked by a possible stranding emergency on Friday, when two pilot whales were seen swimming in Broad Bay, close to shallow water off Coll beach. The unusual sight brought fears of a mass stranding, as pilot whales often travel in large pods. 30 had been seen off Ullapool earlier in the week.

Stornoway Coastguard rescue team checked from vantage points around the coast as far as Tolsta head on Friday, looking out for further groups of whales and ensuring the safety of people who turned out to spot and take pictures of the whales.

By today (Sunday) it was clear that the larger pod had remained at sea and the stray individuals had also headed back out to open water. Rescue group British Divers Marine Life Rescue said: “Sadly pilot whales are notorious for their ability to strand in mass - due to a sick individual or through navigation errors.

On this occasion, the main pod remained at sea with only one stranding and the other two remaining close inshore - before returning to sea overnight.

“We have determined that there are no further pilot whales in the area and the three reported have returned to the Minch. We would like to thank Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and Hebridean Adventures for all the assistance provided and the public that kept watch for us over the past days.”