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Close Encounters Of The Whale Kind: What Can You Do To Avoid Danger At Sea?

24th January 2015
Close Encounters Of The Whale Kind: What Can You Do To Avoid Danger At Sea?

#MarineWildlife - As protections on endangered whale species help buoy their numbers in the world's oceans, the chances of a blue-water encounter – while still slim – are getting better every year.

But at the same time grows the fear of a collision with one of these ocean giants that looms at the back of every offshore sailor's mind.

However, as Yachting World reports, there may be measures you can take to minimise that risk should you come in close quarters with a whale – or better yet, a whale pod.

Does painting the bottom of your boat in the colour red help? It turns out that it might make all the difference, as some scientific research suggests whales can perceive that colour in stark contrast to the rest of their environment, giving them a chance to swim around the vessel and keep danger at bay.

Speed is also an issue, with the vast majority of whale collisions occurring at speeds of over 14 knots – a trend that could be curbed by managing speed limits in whale-rich zones, plotting smarter courses or using dedicated on-deck observers.

Still the vast majority of encounters with whales are peaceful, even "dumbfounding" – but you don't want to startle them, as one group of divers off the island of Dominica learned when a sperm whale released its bowels right on top of them.

The Irish Mirror reports that the "poo cloud" is thought to be a defence mechanism – clouding the clear Caribbean water with a "poonado", as diver and photographer Keri Wilk described the 30-metre wide mass of waste.

"I had poop in my eyes, mouth, wetsuit, everywhere and I was soaked in it from head to toe," he said – though luckily it washed away quickly, bad smells and all!

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

About The Author

MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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