Displaying items by tag: Whale
As seen off Sydney on Wednesday, as whale-watching is resumed after ending of COVID-19 Lockdown.
You know how it is? Sometimes, for one second, you’re just looking the wrong way altogether.
Whales, dolphins and porpoises hold a very special place in people’s hearts and minds. It may be a very long time since our shared mammalian ancestors went their respective ways, but when we get anywhere near “the cousins” in their watery world, there’s a special feeling. Particularly so when the individual involved is Fungi the bottlenose dolphin of Dingle, with his hopes for appreciative human company being stymied for now by the pandemic restrictions, even as his usual sociable season with its requirement for an appreciative audience moves towards its midsummer heights.
Those of us who have a gut feeling that the Covid-19 is going to be gone from Ireland like snow off a ditch by the end of May, well, we keep our notions to ourselves out of respect for the continuing heroic struggle of the frontline workers, and the specialists and those who provide them with management backup. And yes, we do accept that there’s a fair chance that it will return as autumn’s damp and cold and gloom descends on us. But in the meantime, there’s going to be a summertime window of opportunity, and we’ll all go mad if we don’t use it.
Meanwhile, the story of Fungi’s frustration here on Afloat.ie last week was clicking vigorously, as was Betty Armstrong’s subsequent story about a pod of orca whales in Strangford Lough. But there was an added dimension to the Fungi yarn, with our query as to whether anyone remembered Albert, the dolphin or pilot whale who used to make his home in and around Baltimore, and was into occasional interaction with moored cruising yachts. He reputedly enjoying the trick of gathering up the cruising folk’s ground tackle as they lay anchored for the night off Baltimore, and leaving them such that they woke up to find themselves anchored off Sherkin.
It was a memory which hit the spot among Afloat.ie viewers. Bells rang out, and pensioners danced in the streets - or more accurately, they leapt to their Smartphones and iPads, and we soon had enough facts and figures to form an Albert the Pilot Whale of Baltimore Club.
Brian Marten, well known for his work in the local community in West Cork and also for commissioning the re-birth of the 1893 Baltimore-built gaff cutter Eva as Guillemot by Liam Hegarty at Oldcourt, is right there with chapter and verse:
“Sailing around Baltimore as a schoolboy, encounters with Albert were very common - he liked to hang around the Catalogues, (between Sherkin and Heir Island, west of Turk Head, I'm sure you know them). I often saw him jump clear out of the water one or more times in that channel. I recall seeing him jump out of the water near Sherkin when I was very small, one of my earliest memories. I believe that he disappeared some time in the late 1960's, probably died of old age. I don't think a carcass was ever reported.
He most definitely was not a dolphin, being much larger, probably at least 15ft to 18ft long as I recall. I usually saw him while in my brother Alan's National 18 (Alan Marten is currently co-owner of the classic River Class sloop Gweebarra in Strangford Lough, where he is a former Commodore of Strangford Lough YC).
People said Albert was a Pilot Whale, as you mention, but that may have been hearsay. There must have marine biologists around at the time who knew exactly what type he was. I say "he", as he was always referred to as masculine. Anyway, he never had babies, though to be fair that would have required two of the species.
We would usually hear him blowing in the harbour on a quiet night while walking back to the Cove from Dinny Salter’s (now Bushe’s).”
The proper slaking of thirsts in Baltimore was always a sensible priority, but right now the thirst is of the boats and their timberwork, and the challenge down there is to get the local fleet of traditional and classic wooden boats afloat as soon as possible after the Lockdown paralysis, which in recent weeks had been subjecting them ashore to excessive temperatures (both high and low) and searing sunshine
But as to Albert, it seems he was a Pilot Whale, and Brian’s estimate of a length of 15ft to 18ft (5.5 metres) hits the spot, whereas a bottlenose dolphin barely gets to 4 metres, though I’d say Fungi is all of that. Certainly, it means that if he were of a hostile nature, he could be a real menace, and a couple of years ago attempts to befriend and swim with a bottlenose dolphin at Doolin in County Clare went astray, with people being injured.
As for the leaping from the water, that seems to be both sheer exuberance, and the need to shake off sea lice. When a creature the size of Albert did it within the confines of Baltimore Harbour, it was quite something, but occasionally basking sharks do the same, and in recent years that inveterate ocean observer Youen Jacob of Baltimore has recorded basking sharks in the neighbourhood making their leap for freedom.
Back in 1961 when I was cruising solo in a 23-footer off the west coast of Scotland, the word was out that basking sharks were a-leaping at the north end of Kilbrannan Sound between Arran and Kintyre. This was interesting – in the Chinese Mandarins’ interpretation of the word – as I wanted to sail up the Sound from Campbeltown to Tarbert, and sure enough off northwest Arran, there were some mighty splashes around. We – the little boat and me – were sailing along holding to the Kintyre shore thinking we were safe enough, when some eccentric biggie decided that this was exactly where he wanted to let his sea lice get off.
It seemed to me he jumped much more than the 1.2 metres which is all that basking sharks are supposed to achieve, suggesting he might have been a pilot whale. But either way, he was much too close for comfort, and I wasn’t in a species-identifying frame of mind, being just mighty glad there was only the one performance.
That night in the pub in Tarbert, the barman relished telling me that some years previously, there’d been another spate of shark-jumping in the same area. A boat only slightly larger than mine was sitting becalmed off Loch Ranza on the Arran shore, with two crew on board, when a very large basking shark or pilot whale shot blindly upwards out of the water and landed plumb on top of them, leaving only matchwood, with the bodies never found.
So maybe back in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s when Albert was making the scene around Baltimore, it was common sense to accept that he was big enough to be accidentally dangerous, and anyway any notion of making him into a tourist attraction would generally have been out of kilter with the rather solemn mood of the time.
But his memory still evokes other memories, and former Baltimore Sailing Club Commodore Gerald O’Flynn wrote:
“Regarding your article on Fungi, you made reference to Albert who resided in Baltimore Harbour and its environs for many years. The late Tom Fuller, who was the founder of Baltimore Sailing Club in 1956, often told the story of Albert. He first became aware of Albert in the early '30s, and around that time he was asked by some local fishermen to "take care of that bastard!”
But Tom always thought he was an addition to the harbour, and always liked to be told when and where we saw him. Albert was a constant presence in the 50s and 60s, when he would suddenly loom up alongside, which was quite intimidating when aboard a National 12 dinghy.
My brother Dom was the last of our family to experience him - that was when he lived in the Cove around 1968. In bad weather, he said, you could hear Albert snorting away in the sheltered Cove at night. Personally, I didn’t see or hear him after the early 60's. We always thought that he was bigger than a dolphin, but that might have been because he didn’t seem to have a dolphin’s beaked nose – it was definitely a rounded one.
I’ve been a member of the Baltimore SC since its foundation in 1956, and was Commodore in 84/85. I remember meeting you on a few occasions - one in particular with the late Hugh Kennedy, when you’d sailed in to Baltimore on a cruise to the West Cork Regatttas, and we attempted to put the world to rights one sunny afternoon.”
Memories, memories. Tom Fuller was indeed a lovely man, with vision ahead of his time. Thanks to Ger O’Flynn, we now know that way back in the 1930s, there was at least one person in Baltimore who appreciated that there was potentially much more to Albert than a nuisance who consumed vast quantities of fish.
As for that remembered gathering in the sunshine in Baltimore, it was 1984, and we were in West Cork with our visit built around the Centenary of Schull Regatta which was in the midst of the West Cork Regattas when they were in more traditional form. Thus Ger and his late brother Dom (who also served as a BSC Commodore) were in the throes of preparation for Baltimore Regatta on the Bank Holiday Monday, but “urgency” acquires a more relaxed meaning in summertime in Baltimore, and though Ger had nipped away to sort some little problems when I took the photo of Hugh Kennedy, Dom O’Flynn and Brendan Cassidy of Howth undoubtedly putting the world to rights in the sunshine, everything took place as expected.
It was something of a miracle we were there at all, as mid-July bad seen us handling the Press Office at ISORA Week, then we’d set off with our little Hustler 30 Turtle for an ambitious cruise taking in southwest Wales including inveigling our way ashore on the monastic island of Caldey, a night at Lundy in the midst of the Bristol Channel, round Land’s End for a few days in Falmouth where the family were on holiday, a proper little visit to the Isles of Scilly, and then nor’west to West Cork and suddenly there we were, on the quay in Baltimore, and a full plenary session in place.
Even at Schull Centenary Regatta when the wind failed completely, it was no problem - they decided that Michael O’Leary of Dun Laoghaire with the Holland 39 classic Imp had clearly been shaping up to be the winner, so they simply moved the finishing line out to the completely becalmed Imp by dropping the outer mark on one side of Imp, then taking the committee boat round to the other, and then firing the gun to make him line honours and corrected time winner.
There were memories of all this last year when the same Michael O’Leary and partners were the White Sail overall winners at Calves Week in Schull with the Dufour 44 Act Two, but for me the sweetest memories of 1984 are of Cape Clear Regatta, which was organised by the late Derek Harte and his many friends with their “Cape Clear Advanced Regatta Computer”.
To everyone else, the Computer looked like a cardboard box with a tape coming out of it, with a long row of adhesive labels on the tape, each with the name of one of the entered boats. All of us got a prize of an attractive piece of locally-fired pottery. But as Teddy Crosbie had sailed a blinder with his Sadler 32, he rightly got the Pope Cup for the overall winner, and all was well with the world.
And if we have strayed more than somewhat from whether or not, once upon a time, there was a creature of significance in the seas around Baltimore called Albert, and whether or not he was a dolphin or a pilot whale or whatever, well so be it, that’s the way it is with West Cork.
According to Independent.ie, the trio from the Destiny of Scarborough were picked up by a merchant vessel some 400 miles north east of the Azores this past Sunday (21 May).
The Portuguese navy also dispatched to the location after receiving the yacht’s distress signal, but the men were safely returned to land at Aviles in Spain by the merchant ship.
A new marine wildlife visitor centre has been launched in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull by conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – to strengthen conservation action for whales, dolphins, and porpoises, and to develop the Hebrides’ appeal as a wildlife tourism hotspot.
The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Centre on Tobermory’s picturesque harbour front was formally opened this month, and will be a learning, training and volunteering hub, as well as providing a major attraction for visitors, including families and children.
The building’s transformation has been funded as part of a grant of almost £220,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. The fully renovated and extended centre features information on sightings of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – interactive exhibitions, displays and a gift shop.
“Our new centre aims to put Mull and the Hebrides even more firmly on the map as a key destination to enjoy and discover world-class marine biodiversity – which in turn will boost conservation, and could bring significant economic and social benefits to the region,” said Alison Lomax, Director of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
The centre was recently launched with a celebratory event attended by dozens of guests from across the UK, including conservationists, scientists, volunteers and local businesses.
The trust’s previous shop and visitor centre attracted 26,000 people in 2015 – a figure that Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust hopes will now rise significantly.
With Western Scotland’s seas being one of Europe’s most important cetacean habitats, the charity believes that developing sustainable marine wildlife eco-tourism is a major opportunity, as demonstrated by the benefits of white-tailed eagles to the local economies of Mull and Skye.
So far 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species – including many national and international conservation priority species – have been recorded in the region, and fascinating new discoveries about these populations are constantly being discovered.
The Coastal Communities Fund has also enabled the trust to carry out an innovative Sea Change project across the Hebrides over the past two years, to strengthen people’s connections to the sea in remote island communities. This has involved engagement with thousands of people, through roadshows, community visits, liaison with wildlife tourism businesses, and dozens of events.
Responsible whale watching, WiSe (Wildlife Safe) accredited, training has been provided for 23 tour boat operators, while local people have been able to develop skills through the trust’s Community Sightings Network – through which people can report sightings of cetaceans, helping to map their distribution.
Sea Change has been carried out on Mull, Coll and Tiree, Islay and Jura, Colonsay, Barra, Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna), Mallaig and Arisaig, North and South Uist, Harris, Lewis, Gairloch and Skye.
The Coastal Communities Fund has also funded a refurbishment of the trust’s research yacht, Silurian, aboard which marine scientists and volunteers conduct surveys monitoring cetaceans each year. More than 90,000km of Hebridean seas have been surveyed and over 18,000 individual cetaceans recorded so far – significantly extending scientists’ knowledge and understanding, and informing long-term conservation initiatives.
Paying volunteers are being recruited for the trust’s 2016 expeditions onboard Silurian, working alongside marine scientists. For details, email [email protected], call 01688 302620 or visit www.hwdt.org.
The Coastal Communities Fund was created to direct regeneration investment to seaside towns and villages to help rebalance local economies, reduce unemployment and create work opportunities for local young people.
Following our earlier photo from Baltimore Sea Safari of a Humpback Whale breaching in spectacular fashion off the West Cork coast, Kerry reader Brian O'Sullivan (of marine firm O'Sullivan's Marine) has sent Afloat.ie this latest image of further breaching off Fenit yesterday.
Electronic navigation safety technology is to be used to study the potential impacts of marine traffic on whale, dolphin and porpoise species off western Scotland in a new season of research expeditions launched by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust this week.
For the first time, scientists and trained volunteers onboard the conservation charity’s specialized research yacht Silurian will use an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder to collect detailed data on other vessels’ movements. This will be combined with sightings and underwater acoustic monitoring of cetaceans – the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoises – to gain new insights into how species are affected by ships’ movements and noise.
AIS – an automatic tracking system that electronically identifies and locates nearby vessels, continuously transmitting details of their identity, position, speed and course – is more commonly used in navigation safety, allowing ships to ‘see’ each other in all conditions.
With marine traffic from a large range of industries growing, known threats or pressures for cetaceans from shipping include ship-strikes – in which vessels accidentally hit whales – and noise pollution from poorly designed or poorly maintained vessels, which can mask out whale sounds used for communication and navigation.
Dr Conor Ryan, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Science Officer, said: “This innovative approach provides us with an opportunity to enhance our long-term research, which is providing unprecedented insights into the distribution and range of cetaceans in Scotland’s seas, as well as the challenges they face – including the unintentional consequences of human activities.
“The Hebrides may seem like a wilderness, but human impacts on the marine environment are significant – and likely to increase with expansions in marine industries, such as aquaculture and renewable installations. Strengthening scientific understanding is crucial if we are to help industries ensure that their impacts on Scotland’s remarkable whales, dolphins and porpoise populations are minimal.”
The new AIS transponder on Silurian will also allow closer public engagement with the trust’s research expeditions. By using the research vessel’s unique Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number 232004280, people will be able to follow Silurian’s progress around Scotland’s west coast in real-time via www.hwdt.org.
Equipping Silurian with AIS technology has been made possible by a grant of £94,000 from the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund. This grant has also funded a major refurbishment of the yacht, including an environmentally friendly and long-lasting copper coating for the hull that will ensure the vessel remains seaworthy for the next decade, alongside other activities.
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust – based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull – is recruiting paying volunteers for its surveys. Between May and October, there will be 12 separate expeditions, each lasting between one and two weeks. This includes two ‘Teen Teams’ reserved for 16-17 year olds.
These volunteers will work and sleep on Silurian, receiving specialist training and working with scientists – conducting visual surveys, acoustic monitoring, and cetacean identification through dorsal fin photography. They will also be able to develop sailing and navigation skills as they visit some of Britain’s most remote and wild corners.
Silurian has been the platform for Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s unique research programme since 2002, welcoming aboard over 60 volunteers annually, surveying tens of thousands of nautical miles and logging every cetacean encounter made. This year, the yacht will welcome her 800th volunteer aboard. The yacht is also used as a floating classroom for marine conservation education for schoolchildren and students.
Western Scotland’s seas are one of Europe’s most important habitats for cetaceans with 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species recorded in the region to date. Many of these are national and international conservation priority species.
As well as strengthening knowledge about cetaceans and contributing to recommendations to safeguard them, the trust’s surveys are important because cetaceans are apex predators at the top of the marine food web, and so can act as indicators of the marine environment’s overall health.
The 2016 surveys depart from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Kyle of Lochalsh or Ullapool. The new addition of Ullapool as a rendezvous point will allow the trust to carry out more surveys in the remoter corners of its study area. Areas covered depend on the weather but will range from Mull of Kintyre in the south, Cape Wrath in the north and St Kilda in the west.
Participation costs cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food and insurance, and support the charity’s research. For details, email [email protected], call 01688 302620 or visit www.hwdt.org.
#orca – Crews from commercial and Royal Navy vessels have started training for the Orca Ocean Watch Week, an initiative by the whale and dolphin conservation charity ORCA, that is being launched at Portsmouth International Port this month.
Between 25th July and 2nd August bridge crews are being asked to report all sightings of whales, dolphins and porpoises as they sail to and from Portsmouth International Port. The records they produce will help ORCA develop the clearest picture yet of just where the much loved marine mammals are living.
The enthusiastic team from ORCA have spent time training crews from a wide variety of operators, including the banana boats that come and go on a regular basis from the Caribbean and Central America. They've also spent time with the Royal Navy, briefing crews from Portsmouth based vessels.
The Royal Navy ships HMS Smiter, HMS Puncher, HMS Explorer and HMS Trumpeter will be sailing through the English Channel, down into the Northern Bay of Biscay and up into the Baltic Sea. These ships are among 11 vessels contributing to the activity from the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron that are operating all over Western Continental Europe and the British Isles.
Lieutenant Commander Phil Houghton of the 1st Patrol Boat Squadron said, "The Royal Navy and in particular 1PBS are delighted to be able to participate in OceanWatch 2015 and do what they can to support the better appreciation of the complex and vulnerable marine environment in which we operate. Only by understanding the animals and habitats around our local waters can we provide the appropriate protection for them."
Orca Ocean Watch Week will be launched on Monday 20th July by television wildlife expert Nigel Marven. Nigel will be joined at the new passenger terminal at Portsmouth International Port by a 50 foot, life-sized model of a blue whale, and school children eager to learn more about the variety of wildlife in the seas off Portsmouth.
By the time Ocean Watch Week is underway ORCA will have trained crews from over 20 vessels, including ferries, freight ships, cruise liners and small ships.
If you're interested in spotting these fantastic animals yourself, Brittany Ferries and ORCA offer Whale Watching mini cruises from Portsmouth, an increasingly popular trip across the Bay of Biscay, which is one of the most important habitats for whales and dolphins on the planet. ORCA is also working with operators at other ports along the South Coast and Scotland, attempting to get the widest coverage possible for its important survey.
#portsmouthwhales – It's not often children get the chance to put their head in the mouth of a shark, but that's just one exciting adventure they can have at Portsmouth International Port's Marine Wildlife Festival in February.
It won't be a real shark, of course, but one of 13 life sized inflatable models of whales, sharks and dolphins that will be on display in the terminal building. The biggest is 42–feet long, that's 13 metres of whale that you can stand next to. Four will be hanging from the ceiling.
The 'pop up' exhibition opens on the 11th February, with classes from schools all around Portsmouth already booked to come and take part in a "Whale Workshop". Experts from marine wildlife charity ORCA will be taking lessons, with students learning all about the whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, seals and turtles that can be found on a Ferry crossing from Portsmouth International Port. Passengers and locals can also come and visit at any time during the four day long exhibition.
Whale watching is becoming a popular holiday pastime, with people paying thousands for trips around the world. Yet few realise they can see a huge variety of whales and other species when sailing from Portsmouth to Spain as part of a holiday or other trip. This is because the ferries travel through the Bay of Biscay, which is a whale and dolphin hotspot thanks to the variety of depth ranging from 200 – 4,999 metres deep and the abundance of food that suits many different species. This includes the deep diving Sperm Whale and Cuvier's Beaked Whale, making it a perfect spot for passengers to go looking for these magnificent creatures.
Martin Putman, Port Manager of Portsmouth International Port, said 'Since Brittany Ferries launched its whale watching mini cruises a few years ago we've become known as a gateway port for seeing whales, dolphins and other beautiful marine mammals. Anyone heading off on holiday to Spain has the chance of a memorable encounter, and this incredible Marine Wildlife Festival gives a great idea of what you might see."
ORCA has been working hard with Brittany Ferries for 10 years, with wildlife officers onboard the 'Pont Aven' and 'Cap Finistère' recording sightings of Marine wildlife. The charity is always keen to share its knowledge with passengers, helping them to understand more about what is in the sea around them.
Anna Bunney ORCA Community Wildlife Officer said, "People don't fully appreciate how accessible a wide variety of species is right on our doorstep. There's no need to spend big money to see whales when it's often an added bonus when travelling from Portsmouth International Port. We're delighted to be a part of the Marine Wildlife Festival, bringing this rich variety of creatures to life inside the terminal building."
On display will be life-size models of a 13m long female Sperm Whale, 8m Minke Whale, 8m Basking Shark, 6m Pilot Whale, 6m Orca Whale, 3m Orca Whale Calf, 3m, Risso's Dolphin, 3m Bottlenose Dolphin, 2m Common Dolphin, 2m Striped Dolphin, 1.5m Harbour Porpoise, 2m Grey Seal male, female & calf, and a 2m Leatherback Turtle.
There will be one more loveable whale also in attendance. Pip, Portsmouth International Port's cuddly human sized mascot, will be making an appearance for photos with young children and families off on half term holidays.
#kayakingwhale – Youtube footage captures the moment two kayakers, a father and daughter were lifted clear out of the water after a whale surfaced underneath them.
The two were paddling in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Puerto Madryn, Argentina, when they spotted two whales swimming nearby.
One of the kayakers had a camera and was able to record as the whales turned around and approached their kayak, before suspending them on its back.
The father jokes: "Look, it's coming over here, it's angry with you.
"It's coming to bite the paddle. Terrible, terrible, we're on top of the whale!"
The whale lifted the kayak out of the water for a few seconds, before sinking back below the waves and swimming away.
The footage, posted on YouTube by user gisela6652, has already received nearly 800,000 views online.
Lifeboat crew at Tramore RNLI were called out this morning to help assist a whale which had become tangled up in lobster pots. Working alongside an inshore fishing vessel, the two crews worked together to free the mammal.
The lifeboat was launched with around 11.30am after a local fishing vessel reported what they believed to be a whale caught up in lobster pots a quarter of a mile out from shore. When the lifeboat arrived on scene they had to wait some minutes for the creature to surface.
On closer inspection it was discovered that the rope holding some lobster pots together had become snagged in the mammal's mouth and it was turning around in the water repeatedly, attempting to free itself.
The lifeboat worked alongside the inshore fishing vessel, which had an onboard winch, to try and cut the rope free from the mammal's mouth. At first the lifeboat crew tried to take hold of the rope but they were being dragged by the mammal. This continued when they passed the rope onto the larger fishing vessel.
It was then the mammal was hoisted onto the winch of the inshore fishing vessel and the rope was cut free. The lobster pots where then hauled onboard and the mammal on becoming free from the pots calmly swam out to sea.
Commenting on the callout Tramore RNLI crewmember Tom McConnell said, "This was a huge creature. We had to be extremely cautious and work carefully with the other vessel to free it. We felt that one wrong move and we could be flipped over in our inshore lifeboat. We had asked our colleagues in Dunmore East RNLI to be on standby with their all weather lifeboat but thankfully the whale was freed and able to return the deeper waters."