Northern bottlenose whales live- strand in Bantry

29th Aug 2009 Update 29/08/09

The second Northern bottlenose whale, a 5.8m male animal has unfortunately now also been found dead, stranded at Whiddy Island.

Bantry whale update 28/08/09 10:30am

Clare Heardman, NPWS can now confirm that the Northern bottlenose whale that died yesterday at Bantry at 17:00 was a 6.3m (20ft) female. It will be removed later today by Cork Co. Co. engineers for disposal at an industrial incineration facility in Waterford. As of yet there is no further news of the 2nd whale, which is good news and keeps open a chink of hope that this whale made it out of Bantry Bay through the maze of islands and mussel beds.


Report on Bantry whales 27/08/09

At 10:00am 27/08/09 IWDG received a report from Diarmuid Murphy of a live-stranding of what were likely to be pilot whales off Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay, Co. Cork. These animals were first observed earlier in the morning by local fisherman Jimmy Goggin. We immediately contacted local NPWS Conservation ranger, Clare Heardman. It soon became clear that these were two Northern bottlenose whales Hyperoodon ampullatus, a deep diving species rarely seen in Irish inshore waters.


On arrival at Bantry we met Declan O' Donnell District Conservation Officer NPWS, and ranger Clare Heardman, and we headed out to Rabbit Island where one of the pair had re-stranded. We spent several hours with this animal assessing its condition while trying to keep it off the shore by positioning the RIB (small vessel) between it and the rocky shoreline. The high winds made this a near impossible task.



It was clear however that this whale was in a very weakened condition. At 12:30 Merlin Tanner & John Dukelow managed to skilfully manouvre the Whiddy ferry close enough to the whale to get a rope around it, pulling it off the shallows to deeper water. Shortly after this the whale actually collided with this stationary vessel, suggesting that its ability to echolocate had been seriously impaired. It then re-stranded almost immedietely, and some time later was towed off the shore again by the car ferry and it swam towards Bantry town, where it spent the next few hours in only a metre or so of water, in front of hundreds of onlookers. This whale expired at 17:00.

In the meantime news was filtering through that the 2nd animal which was in similar perilous circumstances close to the airstrip had managed to swim into deeper waters on its own. This animal did appear to be in stronger condition of the two. On arrival to the area, there was no sign of this animal, but its hard to be optimistic for its chances of survival. But no doubt many eyes will be scanning the waters of Bantry bay on Fri 28th for signs of this 2nd animal.

Sightings of Northern bottlenose whales are extremely rare in our inshore waters, as their preference is deep water canyon systems of 1,500m or deeper off our Continental Shelf Edge. The fact that another group of three had already been seen this week off Carlingford Lough, Co. Down this week does make this incident all the more intriguing. It is indeed possible that the same animals are involved. The ultimate irony is that an IWDG research team are currently surveying off the Porcupine Bank on the Frontier Cruise looking for beaked whales, which are the group to which the Northern bottlenose whales belong. See daily updates on this research cruise on http://www.iwdg.ie/ShipSurveys/?id=68