© SeawatchThe bowhead was spotted with a mobile phone camera
The bowhead whale was photographed on a mobile phone off Par Beach on the remote island of St Martin's by diver Anna Cawthray who immediately suspected it was special.

But it took an international exchange of e-mails between experts in Britain and the United States to identify it as a young bowhead who was 2,000 miles from home.

Anna feared the whale - which was about 25ft long - could have been stranded but she said: "After about 15 minutes it swam away.

"Seeing it was a once in a lifetime experience."

Bowhead whales normally live in the high Arctic near the ice edge and their closest population is off Spitzbergen far to the north of Norway.

They can reach up to 70ft in length, weigh up to 90 tonnes and live for up to 200 years which makes them possibly the longest lived marine mammal in the world.

They live off small crustaceans and use their large heads to smash through pack ice.

The record was described by the Sea Watch Foundation as an "extraordinary sighting".

A spokesman said: "This is the first sighting of this species in the UK. It has also not been recorded elsewhere in Europe south of the Barents Sea which is north of Norway.

"Bowheads were so heavily exploited by whalers in the Arctic Ocean, in Baffin Bay off Greenland, and the Barents Sea that the population seriously declined during the early twentieth century.

"The population dropped from around 30,000-50,000 to a low in the 1920s of about 3,000.

"But the cessation of commercial whaling in the latter half of the last century has allowed numbers globally to increase to somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000, mainly in the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean."

Sea Watch Foundation's founder and director, Dr Peter Evans, said: "Bowhead whales are unusual amongst whale species in being largely confined to the coldest parts of the world, generally never far from the ice edge.