Clean Coasts Photo Competition and Whale Tales

17th Oct 2014

The Clean Coasts’ Love Your Coast Photography Awards were held on Fri 10th October in the Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre, Docklands in Dublin. As well as a beautiful exhibition inside, the photos were also projected outdoors onto Boland Mills illustrating the beauty of our fantastic coastline in the middle of the capital city of Ireland! I was delighted to be there to see some of the fantastic images for myself and excited as my own photo had been nominated in the top ten for the Wildlife and The Coast category! Although I love taking photos it was my first time ever entering a photo competition and I was over the moon when my photo of the humpback whale tail with the Blaskets (pictured above) came second in its category! I love how the photo captures the action of the whale with the beautiful Irish coastline in the background.

I took the image whilst aboard Celtic Mist on IWDG’s offshore trip in September 2013. We were on our way back from 5 days at sea just west of the Blaskets and this encounter with the humpback whale was the icing on the cake.

Excerpt from 2013 Celtic Mist blog to give you a taste of the action when the picture was taken:

"One of the humpbacks was a smaller animal and on three occasions throughout our lucky encounter it breached clear out of the water, every time surprising us as we watched in awe with dropped jaws. We were also lucky to have a display of tail slapping, and tail fluking the latter of which had us all snapping our cameras in order to get a photo id pic. for the IWDG humpback catalogue. The sheer volume of activity in this area was overwhelming between the birds whales and dolphins there were hundreds of animals within this feeding frenzy. The whole time during our encounter with these magnificent creatures common dolphins were bow riding the boat and their whistles were clearly heard over the water. The dolphins were also bowriding the humpbacks and we were able to follow the groups of dolphins cutting through the water to indicate the direction of the whale.  On occasion we were down wind of the humpbacks blow and I was not expecting the acrid smell that lingered for a little longer than I liked! We all laughed at how stinky the humpbacks breath was but also were delighted to be so close to be able to experience something so different in nature. It’s not every day one can say ‘I smelled a humpbacks breath’ and to be honest it’s not every day one would want to!"

HBIRL23 off Skelligs, Co. Kerry with BBC aboard Celtic Mist Aug. 2014 © Lucy HuntThe humpback was identified as HBIRL23, which had been seen previously by IWDG member Nick Massett in Dingle Bay. Each humpback whale fluke has individual markings very much like a fingerprint which allows us to identify the whale and understand its movements in Irish waters. In August this year we were once again aboard Celtic Mist off the Kerry coast when the BBC came to cover humpbacks for their documentary ‘The One Show’! One day passed and there was very little life to be seen and morale was dropping but on Day 2 we were graced with a fantastic display of a breaching humpback! The very same humpback whale we had encountered on our offshore trip last year. HBIRL 23 had saved the day and must of breached out of the water 15-20 times just south of the Skelligs, putting on one of the most extravagant displays in nature I had ever seen. The BBC crew were very happy with their footage and I was super happy with my second encounter with this amazing animal. Last year I had missed the photo opp to catch it breaching as I was just awestruck but this year still awestruck, it breached so many times that I managed to snap it!

There really is nothing like getting out and having these amazing encounters in Irish waters so I would very much like to thank Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and the Celtic Mist committee for organising these trips which helps us understand a little bit more about these magnificent creatures and gives us the opportunity to capture an experience in a format that allows us to share these experiences with others.

For upcoming Celtic Mist day trips for members contact: celticmist@iwdg.ie

You can see the humpback whale tail photo and lots more beautiful images of Irelands coast in the Clean Coasts travelling exhibition see  http://www.cleancoastsireland.org/clean-coasts-photography-competition-entry-page.php or call into Sea Synergy Marine Awareness and Activity Centre in Waterville, Co. Kerry when it re-opens in June 2015 to see it. For more info contact Lucy Hunt: education@iwdg.ie

By Lucy Hunt, IWDG Education Officer