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Displaying items by tag: Humpback Whale

A new individual Humpback Whale, nicknamed ‘Orion’, has been sighted for the first time in Irish waters, approximately 60 kilometres north-northwest of Malin Head, Co Donegal.

The humpback whale was sighted onboard the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer as part of the annual Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic (WESPAS) survey. The humpback whale was sighted at 9.30 am on Friday 9th July 2021 by Dr Justin Judge, a Marine Mammal Observer who was on board the RV Celtic Explorer on behalf of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). The IWDG confirmed the humpback whale is a new individual, previously unrecorded in Irish waters in the IWDG catalogue and has been given the Catalogue Number HBIRL111.

“This is a dream sighting for a Marine Mammal Observer,” Dr Justin Judge said. “The individual humpback whale ‘Orion’ has been named after the Greek mythological hunter, since the whale was moving with the fish stocks for food. It is also my son’s middle name so fitting on both fronts. There was a lot of feeding action from a multitude of cetacean species that day, including Bottlenose, Common, Risso’s and White-Sided dolphins, grey seals and Minke whales.”

The Humpback Whale named Orion was spotted approximately 60 kilometres north-northwest of Malin Head, Co Donegal Photo: Dr Justin Judge, IWDGThe Humpback Whale named Orion was spotted approximately 60 kilometres north-northwest of Malin Head, Co Donegal Photo: Dr Justin Judge, IWDG

Humpback whales grow up to 14 to 17 metres long, and are predominantly black in colour with long white flippers and often white patches on the underside (ventral surface). When a humpback whale raises its tail or fluke, it provides an opportunity to photograph its underside. The pattern on the underside is unique to that individual whale, and these photographs are used to identify it. To date, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has documented 112 individual humpback whales in Irish waters since 1999, many of which are recorded year after year.

“Observing any apex predator in its natural environment is exciting but a new humpback whale for Irish waters, this is special,” WESPAS Survey scientist, Ciaran O’Donnell of the Marine Institute said. “Irish waters support a diverse range of marine life, and our annual acoustic survey programme not only monitors the health of our pelagic fish stocks, but also provides data to researchers on the overall health of the wider ecosystem. Observing and understanding our ocean, is essential for protecting and managing our marine ecosystems for the future.”

The Marine Institute’s WESPAS survey is carried out annually, and surveys shelf seas from France northwards to Scotland, and west of Ireland. WESPAS is the largest single vessel survey of its kind in the Northeast Atlantic, covering upwards of 60,000 nmi2 (nautical miles) every summer. The survey is funded through the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund under the Data Collection Programme which is run by the Marine Institute. Scientists collect acoustic and biological data on herring, boarfish and horse mackerel, which is used to provide an independent measure of these fish stocks in Irish waters. Scientists also monitor the physical and chemical properties of the seawater, plankton, sea birds and marine mammals during this survey.

Humpback whales are a migratory species. They can be seen in Irish waters throughout the year, but the most frequent sightings occur in spring through to early winter when they visit seasonal feeding grounds. Irish waters are an ideal feeding area for humpback whales, as it is midway on their migration across the Atlantic between Western Africa and Northern Scandinavia. Images of individual humpback whales can be used to track their local short range movements as well as their international movements along migration routes and ultimately their breeding ground.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - Galway residents have a great opportunity to see a wild dolphin close to the city centre with the return of regular visitor to the Nimmo’s Pier area this week.

Nicknamed Nimmo, the solitary bottlenose dolphin was first sighted in the city in April 2015 and since then has become an annual fixture, appearing and staying longer each time.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) suggests this is a sign that the area around Galway city is now a “more important core feeding habitat for Nimmo”.

In other news, the IWDG’s research vessel Celtic Mist will embark on a series of week-long surveys this summer in search of humpback whales.

IWDG members are invited to join any of the nine legs, the first of which sets sail from 9-15 June (weather permitting) between Cork and Dingle/Fenit.

For details on how to book a place on any of these voyages and for further information, contact [email protected]

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A small Norwegian community in the Arctic Circle recently had a whale of a problem with their internet connection - literally.

As New Scientist reports, a subsea internet cable in the Kaldfjorden north of Tromsø which should have been 170m below the surface broke loose from the fjord bed and entangled one of its many humpback whale visitors for more than a day.

Believing at first that the marine giant was caught in fishing gear, rescuers discovered after finally freeing the whale that it had been caught in a data cable - hence the affectionate nickname ‘Hacker’.

New Scientist has more in the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Baltimore Sea Safari in West Cork have posted this photo of a Humpback Whale breaching off the West Cork coast. 

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - Whale sightings are on the increase in the South East this week as the season tapers off, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

"As large whales don't keep to our calendar year, this annual south east flurry of large whale sightings represents the tail-end our our large whale season," says the IWDG's sightings officer Pádraig Whooley.

"And what a season it has been, especially for the humpback whale, which have enjoyed a record year both in terms of frequency of sightings since they first appeared in early May off the Slea Head Peninsula."

The latest spots were made both on land – by Andrew Malcolm and Ann Trimble from Ardmore Co in Waterford at the weekend – and on a whale-watching trip with Martin Colfer's South Coast Charter Angling, recording a humpback whale and more than five fin whales between them.

And there might still be time to head down to the Sunny South East to catch a glimpse of these ocean giants before they depart for the spring.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A Dublin couple on a whale-watching tour off Queensland recently had to content with an attention-seeking humpback whale as they posed for a photo, as the Irish Post reports.

But the holidaying pair Declan and Mandy O’Donoghue seemed happy enough to share the spotlight with the marine giant as it slapped a fin on the waves behind them.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - The humpback whale known as Boomerang is back – and this time he may have found a mate, according to The Irish Times.

Last spotted almost exactly a year ago off the south coast at the Cork-Waterford border, as previously reported on Afloat.ie, the humpback formally known as HBIRL3 has been spotted by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's Andrew Malcolm in recent days in the same location.

But this time he wasn't alone, as another humpback – HBIRL6, a female who last visited Waterford in 2008, and was previously seen with a juvenile off Co Kerry – was keeping him good company. The irish Times has more on the story HERE.

In other cetacean news, the large whale carcass that washed up on Portstewart Strand earlier this month is believed to have died of natural causes.

Originally confirmed as the remains of an adult female sei whale, the 43-foot behemoth has now been identified as a fin whale, most likely a juvenile, as the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Though the cause of death is "inconclusive", it is thought that due to its peeling skin, thin blubber layer and reduced muscle mass, the whale was already dead for days and decomposing before it washed up on the North Coast beach on 4 October.

Fin whales are the second largest mammal in the world's oceans behind only the blue whale.

Published in Marine Wildlife

The sighting, initially believed to be Humpbacks, may in fact be Blue Whales and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has been asked to confirm the species photographed by the Air Corps off the West coast at the weekend. 

To date 24 species of the world's whales and dolphins have been recorded in Irish waters. 

Comment on Twitter and facebook as follows: 

It looks like Irish Air Corps 101 squadron found Blue Whales off the west coast of Ireland over the weekend. Photos @IrishAirCorps Twitter account.

Posted by Baltimore Whale and Dolphin Watch on Monday, 14 September 2015

@AfloatMagazine Blue certainly

— Baltimore WhaleWatch (@BaltimoreWhale) September 14, 2015
Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A paddleboarder "still can't believe" the moment when a humpback whale surfaced right under his board off West Cork earlier this week.

As the Irish Examiner reports, Jason Coniry was out for a paddle with fellow boarders off Inchydoney beach on Wednesday evening (17 June) when the ocean giant appeared suddenly before him.

Luckily for the Corkman – who took the 'special endeavour' award in the Ocean to City An Rás Mór last month for being the first ever stand-up paddle board entrant – the whale was nothing more than curious about him and his fellow humans on the surface.

And Coniry has the presence of mind – and the available tech – to record the incredible marine wildlife experience on video to share with the world.

“Instinct guides us as to when it’s unsafe," he said of the respectful close encounter. "The whale’s movements are very intentional and accurate. If it did not want us near it, we would definitely have known.”

The humpback visitor was certainly in safer company than fellow whales in the Antarctic, where Japan is expected to resume whale hunts by the end of the year – despite the International Whaling Commission not being satisfied of the need to hunt for research purposes.

The Irish Examiner has more on that story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#MarineWildlife - A humpback whale new to Irish waters has been confirmed by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

Photos of the humpback's fluke and dorsal fin captured by Nick Massett off Clogher and Sybil Heads in West Kerry at the weekend were examined by the IWDG's catalogue experts who have determined that the whale is a new arrival - and one with a fluke colouring that's rarely seen in Irish waters.

Details have since been sent to Allied Whale in the US state of Maine - which curates the North Atlantic humpback whale catalogue - to see if a match can be made among its database of more than 7,000 fluke images.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Extra reports that sailors in the Irish Sea are urged to keep a lookout for a large group of minke whales.

The group includes three juveniles and a calf previously spotted some 19 miles east of Ireland's Eye near Howth.

"Although sightings of Minke whale are to be expected in these waters, such a large group is a rare occurrence," said Danielle Gibas, sightings officer with the UK's Sea Watch Foundation, which is organising Britain's annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch this week till 3 August.

And in other cetacean news, scientists claim that dolphins call each other by name, calling back to the sound of their signature whistle but ignoring whistles that aren't theirs.

Herald.ie reports on the findings by marine scientists at the University of St Andrews, who studied a bottlenose dolphin group off the east coast of Scotland.

Using underwater speakers, they played synthesised versions of dolphin whistles they'd identified with particular dolphins to determine their reactions.

They were surprised to find that individuals called back after hearing their own 'name' but ignored others, whether they were for dolphins in the same group or strangers.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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