Calm weather produces many sightings

7th Jun 2006 The continuing spell of settled weather over the bank holiday weekend has produced a plethora of basking shark, dolphin and even whale sightings from all waters. Noteworthy among them are whales off Dublin and Risso's dolphins of Wicklow coast.

For the 3rd consecutive year whales have been seen in Dublin's offshore waters around Rockabill and Lambay.

The following report is from Jim Corbett of Skerries Sailing Club…..

….. “We participate every June weekend in the annual Skerries Sailing Club ‘race' to Isle of Man for the Boland Trophy. You may recall my sighting on 060605 in the same area last year.

We were again on the return passage yesterday June 5. We were heading SW toward Skerries at about 6 knots under engine. The day was bright, warm, wind NW 5 mph. Water temp. was 8.5 degrees. It was very foggy with visibility down to about 100 metres. Sea conditions were calm. Our position was about 20 NM NE of Rockabill Lighthouse.

There were 2 persons on deck (incl. myself). At 1300 my crew called out and an enormous whale curved into view dead-ahead, about 50 metres away. It curved under water and within seconds, re-emerged on the same track, heading south, down the Irish Sea. There was no blow.

It was approx. 10 – 15 metres long and extremely ‘wide'. By way of perspective, it was both longer and wider than our yacht SIRIUS which is 11metres by 4metres. The top of its head was flat or even concave with the blow-hole at the centre. The surface of its skin was not smooth, rather it was sort of ‘dimpled'. Overall, it was dark grey and the fin was set well along its back, maybe 2/3 of the way back. It kept going on and disappeared into the fog. Moments later, we saw a second whale ahead on the same track and it too swam on south into the fog.

Unfortunately, even though I had a camera on-board, it was not to-hand and the whole event was over in less than a couple of minutes.”

Additionally, earlier in the day, about 10 am we saw at a distance, in the fog what initially looked like a large square fin, maybe a metre high on a large back. Because of the poor visibility I can give no further details. Would this be basking shark perhaps?"

.....This whale activity was reported by at least two other boats sailing in the area over the bank holiday weekend.

It is unclear as to which species these whales were, but their length seems to rule out the regularly seen minke whale, while the fact that no obvious blow was seen, tends to rule out their being fin whales.

At the same time these whales were off the Dublin coast, whale watchers in Greystones enjoyed close up views of the Wicklow Risso's dolphins, which have been showing almost on a daily basis now between Wicklow Head, Kilcoole, Greystones and Bray Head. Both the whale and the Risso's dolphin activity has been reported in these same areas, at this time in past few years.

Basking sharks have also been seen at many sites with confirmed reports of 8+ off Glasheedy, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, while at the other end of the country we're investigating an unconfirmed report of a huge aggregation of c100 basking sharks off Valenta, Co. Kerry. Although not unheard of, such aggregations are uncommon in Irish waters.

So as ever, make the most of the calm seas, as they certainly makes whale observations a lot easier to make. Now, if we could only do something about that fog!!

Please do continue to report all cetacean sightings to IWDG via our website, and we'll continue to give you as much feedback as possible.

Padraig Whooley

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