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Displaying items by tag: Whales

#MarineWildlife - The mysteries of Ireland's humpback whales have got the 'TouchCast' treatment as part of RTÉ's new interactive storytelling format.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, scientists have recently tracked first the firm time ever whales travelling between popular spots on the Irish coast like Hook Head and feeding grounds thousands of miles way in the Arctic.

Now you can learn more about this new research in Philip Bromwell's TouchCast report, including cetacean experts' surprise at finding no matches between Irish whale and the popular breeding grounds in the mid Atlantic and the West Indies.

Another RTÉ TouchCast report worth watching pays a visit to the studios of Cartoon Saloon, nominated for an Oscar for their animated feature Song of the Sea that takes its inspiration from Irish maritime folklore.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#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

#MarineWildlife - An extreme sports enthusiast has been lambasted for climbing onto the floating carcass of a whale while it was surrounded by sharks.

As Main Online reports, Perth man Harrison Williams was spotted by surprised onlookers swimming to the dead whale floating in the sea off Western Australia – despite it being circled by a number of tiger sharks and at least one great white shark.

"If sharks were feeding on that whale carcass when he swam over then that type of behaviour is highly risky," said Tony Cappelluti, regional manager with Western Australia's Department of Fisheries.

But Harrison shrugged off his critics, saying that "the whale looked in distress and I tried to help it. But clearly I was too late."

Mail Online has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports on a recent encounter with a humpback whale that's no stranger to our shores.

Marine mammal observer William Hunt was on the RV Celtic Explorer along the south coast where Cork meets Waterford last Wednesday 22 October when the boat came upon HBIRL3, better known as Boomerang.

This marked the first sighting of the distinctively marked male humpback since November 2012, and the ninth year he's been spotted since he was first recorded in August 2001.

The Boomerang sighting was just the tip of the iceberg on an eventful day for cetacean spotting on the annual Celtic Sea Herring Acoustic Survey, which included nine fin whales in various groups seen in close proximity.

The IWDG has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - "What if whales were nature's ultimate geoengineers?" That's the question Philip Hoare poses on the Guardian's Comment Is Free section upon the news that US scientists have identified cetacean waste as a potentially pivotal link in the climate change chain.

Marine scientists from the University of Vermont compiled decades' worth of research in their new report that claims whale faeces – and deceased whales on the ocean floor – might comprise "massive carbon sinks" absorbing the CO2 human industry puts into the environment while also providing nutrients for other marine wildlife.

Indeed, it's now thought that areas where cetacean populations have shown signs of recovery after decades of hunting are also seeing "higher rates of productivity" among commercial fishing species.

The new report also supports the notion that climate change "may have been accelerated by the terrible whale culls of the 20th century" that removed a necessary balancing effect to counter the huge levels of man-made carbon emissions.

As Hoare writes: "A burgeoning global population of cetaceans might not just be good for the whalewatching industry, they may play a significant role in the planet's rearguard action against climate change."

The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Though the winter months comprise Ireland's major whale-watching season, this time of year brings more people to the coasts to witness Ireland's bounty of marine wildlife.

And if you're not sure where to look, BreakingNews.ie has a guide to some of the best opportunities for cetacean spotting.

Whether boating off Baltimore, kayaking off Kerry or simply hogging the binoculars from cliffs and headlands around our coasts, there's a good chance of sighting some of the many species of whales, dolphins and porpoise that call Irish waters home - or at least come to visit for a few months.

And that's not to mention our good friends the basking sharks, the ocean's second-largest fish, and the seal colonies that regularly entertain harbour-goers.

The guide also reminds potential spotters what to look out for, such as sudden reflections on the water, unusual vapour in the air, ripples against the current or seabirds going wild over a certain feeding spot.

If you're lucky, you may even have an encounter like the Ballyholme Yacht Club members who saw a humpback whale near the Copeland Islands in the North Channel recently, one of only a handful of sightings off the Co Down coast in the last 100 years.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Humpback whales caught in a feeding frenzy off the Blasket Islands last week points to a potential bounty of big whale sightings over the winter months, as Nick Massett writes on the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group website.

A large aggregation of six humpback whales - a quarter of all those previously catalogued in the area - was witnessed feeding west of the Foze Rocks on Saturday 14 September.

Seven in total have been identified this year off the Blaskets, and with no sightings elsewhere around the Irish coast it's believed the humpbacks are content to feed exclusively within the Dingle Bay area for now.

Of course this is just the start of the big whale season, and the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley indicates that larger species such as the humpback and the commonly sighted fin whale - the longest ocean animal behind the elusive blue whale - are beginning to move inshore in greater numbers.

Even at that, inshore records "are likely to be the tip of a much larger iceberg", as imagery captured by the Irish Air Corps shows an incredible nine-strong group of fin whales feeding offshore along the Porcupine Blight where the water depth reaches more than 1km.

"But if this year pans out like previous years, the best has still yet to come," writes Whooley, "as historically the months November to January are the peak period for the "herring hog" inshore along the Irish south coast."

All this good news comes tinged with a some sadness, however, considering the rising trend of strandings of whales and dolphins on the Irish coastline - itself potential evidence of ill health among the whale and dolphin populations that visit our shores.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

#RareWhale - A recent trip to the edge of the continental shelf by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's (IWDG) research vessel Celtic Mist resulted in an encounters with one of the ocean's most rarely seen creatures.

Surveying an area in the Porcupine Basin, just north of the Goban Spur, researchers sighted three beaked whales passing within 50m of the vessel on the morning of 4 September.

"These three animals were almost certainly True’s beaked whales but from the photos cannot be distinguished from Gervais beaked whales," writes the IWDG's Patrick Lyne

"These animals, first seen alive in 1995 and with only two confirmed sightings in the wild, must be some of the most rarely seen animals on the planet. Mostly they are only known from strandings of already dead animals."

The following day, the team sighted Northern bottlenose whales, one of the more abundant species of beaked whale but one that's an infrequent visitor to Irish waters.

The IWDG has more on the story, including photos, HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Tagged under

#MarineWildlife - The Guardian reports on new research which proves that military sonar has a direct effect on the behaviour of whales in our oceans - even leading to mass strandings.

The studies, part funded by the US Navy, found that beaked whales where particularly sensitive to sonar - and that even blue whales, the largest animals on earth, were distracted from feeding by the subsurface noise.

It's long been feared that the use of sonar is to blame for unusual behaviour among whales, who navigate and communicate with each other over long distances using sound.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) identified sonar activity by Royal Navy submarines as a possible cause of a the mass stranding of pilot whales in Donegal in November 2010, in which as many as 35 whales died.

Now for the first time, sonar has been proven to affect behaviour of cetaceans to a detrimental degree, confirming for many a connection between the use of sonar technology and recordings of whale and dolphin strandings identified since the 1950s. The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

In more positive whale-related news, the IWDG reports that its next Cape Clear summer whalewatching course over the weekend of 26-28 July is "filling up nicely".

Places are still available but as it coincides with the tourism high season in West Cork, anyone interested is advised to book sooner than later to ensure they have someone to stay nearby.

The most recent weekend course over the June bank holiday witnessed numerous harbour porpoises and common dolphins, but its hoped the elusive whales will make an appearance next time round!

Published in Marine Wildlife

#AtTheMovies - The Irish Independent reports that Irish actor Cillian Murphy has signed on to appear in new maritime adventure film The Heart Of The Sea.

Ron Howard is directing the adaption of the Nathaniel Philbrick book, which follows the fortunes of the whale ship Essex and its encounter with an angry sperm whale in the South Atlantic.

Murphy - who previously narrated the award-winning surfing documentary Waveriders among his prestigious blockbuster credits - will play the ship's second mate.

The film also features Thor star Chris Hemsworth, and is set to begin shooting in the UK this September.

Published in News Update
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