Common dolphins mass strand near Castlegregory, Co Kerry13th Aug 2004 I received a call at 19:45 on Thursday 12 August from Pauline Beades of the Irish Seal Sanctuary who had been contacted by Tony Boyle who was holidaying in the Maharees, regarding three dolphins that were beaching themselves at Meelick, Kilshannig (near Castlegregory).
I left shortly afterwards and followed Tony to the site, arriving about 21:30. This was around high tide and there were three dolphins stranded about half-way between the high and low tide mark. Two of them were quite calm, but one was very distressed and resisted any attempts to put it into a more comfortable position on its belly. There was quite a bit of blood in the puddles, which was from many superficial wounds caused by the animals' struggle. Following consultation with Simon Berrow, we decided that due to the darkness, our best bet was to wait for the morning when we could be better organised and more in control of the situation, including our own personal safety. I was also hopeful that the high tide at around 3:30 am would be of benefit to the animals, a belief which was unfortunately to be proved wrong.
On talking to Ronnie Fitzgibbon that night, it transpired that 6 common dolphins had been stranding since morning and had been refloated a number of times. Ronnie offered more support for the next day and I also contacted Dingle Coast and Cliff Rescue who also had some volunteers on standby for Friday. At about 1am Tony and myself returned to the beach, and we could hear thrashing sounds in the water. By torchlight we located one of the dolphins, which was swimming around but was having difficulty keeping its blowhole above the water. Eventually it swam out of range, and we were initially hopeful that the other two had also swum away, but then we were greeted by a particularly sad sight of the two dolphins floating at the surface side by side, apparently having been drowned by the incoming tide. It seemed unfair for animals with such a mastery of the oceans to die this way. We managed to drag the bodies above the high tide mark where they would be recovered for post-mortem by UCC on Friday. At about 2:15 we returned to Tony's house for a well-earned beer and bed.
On Friday morning (the 13th ..) a call was received from Orna Griffin regarding a dolphin which was in shallow water and attempting to beach itself at the Castlegregory side of Sandy Bay. I went to check Meelick first and found two more dolphins in distressed condition in what appeared to be less than 2m of water. As there was nothing to be done for these, until they either stranded or swam out, I went to Sandy Bay and found a small crowd gathered watching a distressed dolphin which was swimming fairly strongly, but with some difficulty in the shallows. As a larger crowd gathered, the common dolphin eventually beached and was put on a tarpaulin. Ronnie Fitzgibbon in Waterworld was contacted and sent over a Transit van, in which we put a bed of seaweed, which children had gathered for us. Eight of us managed to carry the dolphin to the van and put it on the seaweed. We then went to Scraggane pier where we hoped the deeper water would give it a good chance for survival.
Unfortunately, luck was against us again (Friday 13th?) and the dolphin died just as it was being brought to the water. This was also kept for post-mortem examination, but due to the number of children around, was left in the water and its tail tied to the end of the pier. To add insult to injury, it later slipped out of the rope and sank, but was recovered with the kind assistance of two divers from Waterworld.
Back at Meelick, the other two common dolphins were still in the shallows, but at around 14:00 they headed towards Castlegregory in the deeper water provided by high tide and have not been reported since.
On behalf of myself and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group I would like to thank the many people who helped out so freely over the two days, even down to providing food and accommo