Leg 2: of Celtic Mist Tour

16th May 2016

Celtic Mist sets sail from Galway bay to Killybegs 16/05/2016

Leg two of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group Anniversary Sanctuary tour has kicked off to a great start! The crew were ecstatic to learn from a local dive group that basking sharks and one bottle nose dolphin were spotted just outside of Galway Bay as they returned from a dive in the Aran Islands on Sunday evening, we were also joined by some very enthusiastic members of the public that came on board the vessel to talk with the marine biology crew about the group and the many cetaceans in our waters. Unfortunately the basking sharks had gone by the time we set sail. Not long after leaving Galway Bay we were met with a thick smack of jellyfish which made us all the more hopeful for an eventful day. Shortly after this surprising encounter we spotted what appeared to be a whale surfacing in the distance, as we slowly approached the animal it was clear it was a minke whale. The members on-board had cameras at the ready to try and snap some good photos unfortunately it was a fleeting visit as the animal only surfaced 3 times before disappearing on a dive.  There were sporadic intervals throughout the day of feeding sea birds, large numbers of circling and diving gannets indicated the possibility of hidden whale activity beneath the surface of the water; other bird species observed included a Little Tern. After a quick cup of tea the crew returned to their posts and began to watch for any disturbances that could signal whales or dolphins again. We weren’t kept waiting too long in the distance some splashing was seen. Bottlenose Dolphins!! As we approached some more inquisitive individuals that were accompanied by one juvenile; they attempted to bow ride but soon decided to go back into a sheltered area were they appeared to be feeding. All of the crew on board are looking forward to the up-coming week! Fingers crossed that the whales and the weather will stick around for us!

Blog by – Sibéal Regan.

Rough weather but high spirits aboard the Celtic Mist 21/05/2016

As we cleared the many reefs and islands near Roundstone, we looked northwards into what we didn’t realise at the time would be the roughest weather we would face. We had been unlucky with sightings en route from Galway to Roundstone however, we were lucky to be joined by a pod of bottlenose dolphins south of Slyne Head.  This time they stayed with us long enough to get pictures of the fins which if well marked, can be used to identify them and give us information on their movements and range.

 

Photo credit to John Collins

As we listened to the sea area forecast, a small crafts warning was issued over the radio and visibility was poor.  However, a huge grouping of manx shearwaters surrounded us, setting the scene of an Atlantic summer’s day. Did I mention the driving rain?

The weather cleared as our talented skipper Fiacc navigated us into Inisbofin. The following morning we were joined onboard by Inisbofin National School, and we discussed our research and what can be seen in our waters. The interest and knowledge the children showed was very encouraging as they described the re-floating of several common dolphins in the previous months. Perhaps future marine biologists in the making! Likewise on Clare Island, we were lucky to meet so many friendly and helpful people who guided us on our journey.  The school children from the island who came down to the boat could tell us all about the frequently seen bottlenose dolphins in the area and of course fish farming, which the kids could probably run by themselves with all their knowledge combined!

We left Clare Island and took to the sea once more, crashing through an increasingly ominous swell.  Exciting news arrived of a humpback whale seen of Erris Head! Sick stomachs and poor visibility prevented sightings but our morale was saved by the comradery on board.  As we passed Inis Gé, puffins and a great skua were seen. We were glad to take shelter in Ballyglass, and as the sky opened up it became apparent that the weather would only clear as we came ashore! The following morning we passed in between the Stags and the dramatic cliffs of Mayo. The scenery here is definitely some of the best the west of Ireland has to offer. The seas began to calm but only for dense gloopy fog to descend upon us. As we crossed the extensive Donegal Bay we thought surely we will see something and had we seen any whales or dolphins it would have been a hard earned sighting! Typically the weather began to clear as we approached port at Killybegs. A marvellous bolognese was conjured below in the galley, settling the crew after a tough graft.

To the crew of the Celtic Mist for rallying each other during passage I thank you. The highlight of our leg was undoubtedly meeting the enthusiastic and nature loving children whom hopefully we have ignited a curiosity regarding the whales and dolphins frequenting our waters.

Blog by John Collins.