History of MWDW

Started by one man and his fascination of the sea

Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch was founded in 2005 by John ‘Galps’ Galpin whose house overlooked the sea in Dalby, on the island’s west coast.

Fascinated by the basking sharks that visited Manx waters, Galps set up a powerful pair of binoculars to watch these animals from his window and dedicated much of his time to recording his sightings.

Soon enough, Galps began spotting the iconic basking sharks which, back in those days, arrived on our west coast in their hundreds each summer. Much to his surprise, different animals also revealed themselves – huge whales, pods of fast swimming dolphins, and tiny porpoises.

Keenly jotting down his observations, Galps tried to find out what species he was seeing. This was no easy task as very little information existed about Manx cetacean species, save for a few fishermen’s reports and stories of Donald the solitary dolphin from the 1970s. The literature didn’t exist as no one had ever studied cetaceans in Manx waters before. Galps took it upon himself to venture into the unknown and find out more.

"Risso's are like ghosts under the water" Remembering our founder, Galps
Logo 2006-2015

With assistance from the Sea Watch Foundation in Wales, a website and posters were created detailing known Irish Sea species. The website had a sightings report form and Galps began giving talks about species identification. 

In 2007 Galps enlisted the help of a group of four marine mammal scientists who moved to the island to begin conducting systematic boat and land-based surveys. Galps bought a boat and named her Grampus (from the latin for Risso’s dolphin). The team began searching for and recording cetaceans in Manx waters for the first time. 

They collected data from dedicated surveys and public sightings. They identified distribution patterns of our local species and MWDW continues to build on this dataset to this day.

Our outreach and education department was established in 2013 and we registered as a charity in 2015. We continue to grow year on year as public awareness increases and our local community become proud and protective of our marine species. 

The study of our Manx cetaceans through scientific surveying and public sightings network must continue. This is the only way to monitor populations and ensure they are protected long into the future.

Simon Mitchell and Tom Felce circa 2010
In 2022 MWDW incorporated the work of Manx Basking Shark Watch
We now work to monitor the local population of these iconic sharks alongside cetaceans.

Meet the Team

Find out about our current team