Humpback whales sighted off Waterford

12th Jul 2003 We have just received a report from sailor, Jim Ryan, sailing from Cork to Dublin, that they encountered a group of 3 large whales, off the East Waterford coast this evening July 12th at 17:00 hrs.

Having validated the sighting over the phone, while Jim was in close proximity to the whales, we are confident of their species identification.

Their length: 30-40ft, combined with the fact that they had a visibly powerful blow, rules out the commonly seen smaller minke whale. The fact that they were observed "fluking", lifting their tail out of the water on diving, rules out the bigger sei and fin whales, which never fluke. The white underside of their tail flukes, not to mention the size discrepancy rules out blue whale. By process of elimination, they could only be humpback whales.

If interested in heading out to observe them, the position is 51º 56 556N/ 07 08 716 W. As the location is >11 miles offshore, this will be out of RIB range. You will need powerful optics, i.e. a scope, if you are going to try to watch them from land.

If you can make it offshore, please ensure you bring a camera and note that the IWDG is particularly anxious to get fluke shots, to see if we can match flukes taken from the recent Cape Verde Isl. expedition.

Remember, it is the white underside of the fluke that is used for matching humpback flukes. You will have to be patient, as humpbacks do not fluke on every dive.

This sighting is exactly a week after the IWDG aerial survey observed 3-4 large blowing whales in the same area, 20miles south of Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. This is interesting as no large baleen whales have as of yet been observed in any of the usual West Cork hotspots, and common dolphins remain absent from the area.

Pádraig Whooley

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