#MARINE WILDLIFE - Members of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) encountered the world's largest animals off the southwest coast of Ireland last Thursday.
Two blue whales were witnessed by the team on board the Celtic Mist near the edge of the continental shelf on the Porcupine Blight, west of Dursey Island in Co Kerry.
The marine giants - last recorded in Irish waters back in 2008 - reportedly surfaced within 500 metres of the boat.
Mission co-ordinator Patrick Lyne told The Irish Times that there may even have been three whales in the pod, as three blows of seawater were witnessed in a short space of time.
He also noted that the sighting was very significant as there are estimated to be fewer than 4,000 blue whales in the entire northern hemisphere - their numbers reduced drastically by whaling over the past hundred years.
At an average of 30 metres in lengh and an incredible 180 metric tins in weight, the blue whale is the largest animal to have ever lived on earth.
The Celtic Mist was on its maiden voyage as a research vessel for the IWDG, following its gifting to the group for marine wildlife conservation work by the Haughey family last year, and subsequent major refitting works.
The vessel set sail on Monday 3 Septmeber on a marine mammal observation and passive acoustic monitoring week, carrying a towed hydrophone array for acoustic detections below the surface.
During the weeklong mission the team on board enountered 11 different cetacean species including harbour porpoises, common dolphins, minke whales and a humpback whale.