Sperm whale in Ballysadare Bay, Sligo, Tues 12th Sept.

15th Sep 2006 Report 7: 15/09/2006

This afternoon the Irish Lights vessel MV Graineuaile successfully towed the stranded sperm whale off the sand bank. They aim to tow the carcass offshore and sink it.

Attempts were made by Sligo County Council Heritage and Environmental Awareness Officer to secure the lower jaw or skull for the new Sligo Museum but logistics and access conspired against them.

Who knows, maybe the whale will wash in again somewhere else !! Many thanks to Captain Duirmuid Gray for a tricky operation and for all those other people and organisations involved.

Report 6: 14/09/06


The initial reports that the Sligo Sperm whale was female surprised us for a number of reasons. Firstly, measuring 14 metres (45ft), this is well outside the normal size range for females, as they tend to have an average length of c11metres. Secondly, a quick trawl of sperm whale strandings in Irish waters, on the strandings section of www.iwdg.ie shows that the vast majority of sperm whales that were in good enough condition to have gender verified, are males. This reflects the fact that males tend to be solitary spending most of their lives in cold waters, while females tend to frequent more tropical warm waters. These facts, combined with the absence of any obvious mammary slits parallel to the genital opening suggest strongly that this is infact a male. Tissue sample analysis will however confirm its gender.

Sperm whale in Ballisadare, Co Sligo

With all the main news footage and huge media coverage of this story, interest has never been greater in whales and dolphins. If you'd like to learn more about whales and dolphins in Ireland and to support the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) in conserving both them and their habitats, why not consider joining the IWDG. You can join online by clicking the membership icon on this homepage.

Thanks for your interest and support

Report 5: 13/09/06 12:00

Reports from Tim Roderick, NPWS are that the whale appears not to have moved overnight and remains 300 m from nearest shore, across a deep and quite wide channel. There is no chance of getting any lifting or digging equipment over to its current location, nor is it currently an option to approach it from the sea, with a view to towing it either ashore or to dispose of the carcass offshore. There is really no simple solution to this logistical problem and local authorities may just have to adopt a “wait and see” approach to establish what the elements have planned for this whale. Although such incidents, when above the high water mark, tend to be dealt with by local County Councils, but clearly in this location they do not have access to the whale.

It is hard to remember so much media interest in a natural history event of this kind, which has been covered on all national and local media. Whales in Irish waters have certainly been beamed into the homes of millions of Irish families in the past 24 hours. In the meantime the whale remains a fascinating spectacle, and as always we'd ask people who want to view it, to do so from the safe distance of the shore, and under no circumstances should people attempt to swim or paddle out to it.

Pádraig Whooley


Report 4: 12/09/06 18:52

We have just received a report via Tim Roderick, NPWS District Conservation Ranger, that the sperm whale is now dead. Civil defense have carried out a "blink reflex" test on the whale and the absense of any reaction suggests that the whale has expired of natural causes. Although this was always the most likely outcome, it is a relief that this drama has played itself out quite quickly, and that the whale's suffering has been minimised.

The IWDG would like to thank all the agency staff