Life on the Edge on Celtic Mist

5th Sep 2017

5 September 2017

The departure point for this years’ offshore cruise on Celtic Mist was Kilrush which we departed on Monday August 28th August. With the usual plethora of things to do before departure it was 13.30 hrs before we left the harbour in Kilrush.  On going down the Shannon Estuary we came across the expected bottlenose dolphins just North of Kerry Head and the pod of about 10 animals had a light coloured calf with distinct foetal folds indicating a recent birth.  We spent the night at the Blaskets and in the morning headed West between Inishnabro and Inishvickillane to a point west of the Foze Rocks, Ireland and the European mainlands’ most westerly point of land.  Here at the 100m bathymetric contour we could see lots of gannet and shearwater activity with plenty of sooty as well as manx shearwaters.  We counted 4 humpback whale as well as numbers of minke whales and common dolphin and more distant fin whales all feeding on shoals of sprat.  We managed to get photo id images of two humpbacks, which were confirmed as ID catalogue Numbers 67 and 9.  No. 67 was first identified in Dingle Bay in 2016 by Nick Massett and has been subsequently seen in May of this year off Cape Clear.  Whale ID No. 9 was first identified by Padraig Whooley in 2008 off Galley Head and was seen in Iceland in 2014 before returning to the Blaskets later that year but was not recorded since then until now.  We returned port in Valentia at Knightstown before heading to sea the next day and the shelf edge via the Bull Rock. 


On the Thursday morning we arrived at our first waypoint in sea state 3 and proceeded North along the shelf edge.  There were some fish seen and some albacore tuna and plenty of portugese man of war but apart from one blow (of what was probably a fin whale) we saw no large baleen whales.  It is nevertheless significant to note what may be huge changes in numbers of these whales from year to year.  The causes of which cannot be understood without first releasing the scale of what is happening.  We did encounter common dolphins and two pods of long-finned pilot whales which was welcome in an otherwise quiet day.  With weather conditions set to deteriorate we headed back towards shore and were once again off the Foze rocks Friday morning, but while there was some feeding activity it was less than frenzied, with common dolphins and gannets and not a minke in sight.


Nick had tipped us off to the presence of two fin whales which we tracked down in the middle of Dingle Bay before heading North to a point North of Inishtooskert where we encountered lots of activity with some 4 fin whales, a humpback (48) and lots of minke and common dolphin as well as yellow fin tuna, all were feeding on shoals of sprat. This time the weather was perfect and we could see the humpback bubble netting in a perfect circle, while common dolphins created their own cordon of bubbles and minkes and fin whales lunged into the shoals. 

A short video of from the beautiful day on September 1st can be found here


That evening we headed into Fenit before returning to Kilrush. We would like to thank skipper Niall McAlaistair and mate Liam Quinn, and crew Elizabeth Cullen, Emma O'Brien, Fabien Lee, Robert Parker, Eleanor Turner  for all their good humour and support.

Patrick Lyne


30 August 2017

 Celtic Mist leaving Kilrush Marina on Monday, heading offshore 

After a week long survey around north and west Kerry, Celtic Mist headed offshore to the shelf edge. Celtic Mist located 3 or 4 humpbacks off Foze Rocks in the Blasket Islands yesterday, lots of minke whales and of course the ever-present common dolphin.  Photo-id was obtained on two of these individuals (IRLHW67 and one other).  Some fin whales were also about but were moving fast. Celtic Mist is heading to the shelf edge today/tonight, to spend Thursday out there and back to the Blasket Islands Friday morning as the wind is picking up



Humpback off Foze Rocks


23 August 2017

After a gentle sail in good sea conditions to Brandon with three sightings of bottlenose dolphins along the route, Celtic Mist made Valentia Island yesterday having sailed through the Blaskets Islands. No humpback whales were seen but a group of Risso's dolphins was the highlight. These dolphins rarely recorded around the Irish coast are recorded regularly around the Blaskets. Photo-ID will see if they are the same individuals returning and staying temporary around these magnificent islands. 


Bottlenose dolphins in the Shannon Estuary                    Crew at Knightstown on Valentia Island                      Risso's dolphin off Blasket Islands

21 August 2017

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group research vessel Celtic Mist departed Kilrush Marina in Co Clare to continue its work surveying whales and dolphins in Irish waters, this time during Heritage Week. Heading out on an ebb tide Celtic Mist will make Brandon tonight and spend today and tomorrow hopefully photographing bottlenose dolphins. IWDG recently published a study showing that the dolphins in Brandon and Tralee Bays are part of the Shannon Estuary resident population and IWDG recommended the boundary of the Lower River Shannon SAC, which is designated to protect this unique population is extended to include these bays. Bottlenose dolphins have been hard to find in the Shannon the last few weeks, and we believe they are in Brandon Bay feeding on mackerel. Hopefully, the Celtic Mist will be able to collect photo-ID data to support this suggestion. 


From Brandon Celtic Mist plans to sail to the Blasket Islands and hopefully locate and record humpback whales, recently reported by Nick Massett using Smerwick Harbour and Dingle town as anchorages and safe havens. Good luck and thanks to skipper Niall MacAllisterr and crew for running Celtic Mist on behalf on the IWDG. We will update this page during the week with news of their successes and adventures. 


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