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Displaying items by tag: Sperm Whales

The shores of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic West coast feature prominently in a new documentary about the master perfumer of Dior — but it’s not because their beauty and drama matches that of the finest scents.

It’s all to do with ambergris, the mysterious substance secreted by sperm whales (some might call it ‘whale vomit’) which is a key ingredient in high-end perfumes, transforming their constituent oils and making scents last longer.

But ambergris is not easily found, and that’s where the likes of Patrick Lillis come in. He tells The Irish Times how his beachcombing hobby blossomed into a business when he found that even tiny quantities of the waxy stuff fetch high prices.

To give an example, the largest piece Lillis has found to date weighted just over a kilo and sold for a whopping €15,000. Such is the price that perfumers like François Demachy at Dior — the subject of the new documentary Nose — are willing to put on the product, for which Lillis has developed a keen eye.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes
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#MarineWildlife - A team from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) was on site at Streedagh Strand in Sligo yesterday (Thursday 4 April) to investigate the third sperm whale stranding in a matter of days along Ireland’s West Coast.

As reported yesterday on Afloat.ie, the discovery of a third such whale carcass made for an “increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

While sperm whales are relatively abundant in Ireland’s deep ocean waters, they are rarely found above 300 metres — and male specimens are far more common than the female whale found in Sligo.

The IWDG confirmed that samples were taken from the 10.4m carcass, which showed “no obvious signs of ship collision [or] entanglement, nor was the whale emaciated”.

Examination of stomach contents found no plastic debris and few food remains.

“So as is so often the case with strandings, we know more about what didn’t kill the whale than what did kill it,” the IWDG stated — adding that it is liaising with Scottish colleges after a decomposed sperm whale was found on Uist in the Outer Hebrides, due north of Ireland, in recent days.

The group also notes that multiple warships and submarines are involved in Nato’s annual Joint Warrior exercise ongoing west of the Hebrides.

Sonar activity from military vessels has been suggested as a cause of whale strandings throughout Europe in recent years, including a major event across Scottish and Irish waters last year.

“However, these whales have been dead for one to two weeks so this can’t explain these strandings, unless some active equipment was tested offshore prior to the start of this exercise,” the IWDG says.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - A third sperm whale stranding on Ireland’s west coast within just a few days is now a cause for concern, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) says.

Following the discovery of two sperm whale carcasses on the same day last week — in Donegal and west of the Aran Islands, the latter believed to have beached in Connemara — a third was found washed up on Streedagh beach in Sligo at the weekend.

Images of the latest stranding suggest it is an adult female, which the IWDG describes as “a little unusual” as “generally we get adult male sperm whales off the Irish coast”.

The close proximity of the strandings is also “now a concern”, though no cause of death has yet been determined, and plastic pollution is unlikely to be the culprit.

The IWDG added it “will explore some potential options regarding this increasingly unusual stranding pattern”.

Meanwhile, RTÉ News reports that the Galway council officials hope the sperm whale carcass washed ashore in Connemara will be taken out by high tides in the coming days.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - The remains of two sperm whales have been spotted around Ireland in recent days.

The first was sighted in the Atlantic Ocean some 100km west of the Aran Islands on Monday (25 March) by an Air Corps airman.

Later that same day, samples were taken from a 43ft sperm whale carcass found washed ashore at Magheroarty in Co Donegal. Highland News says it it thought to have been dead for a number of weeks.

Sperm whales are the largest predator in Irish waters and are relatively abundant in deep ocean but are rarely found above 300 metres, according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

The IWDG adds that a recent study estimated there are 3.2 sperm whales per 1,000 square kilometres of Irish waters.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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#MarineWildlife - Four more sperm whales have beached in eastern England on the North Sea coast after the first died in Norfolk last Friday (2 January).

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the first whale died on a the beach at Hunstanton despite best efforts to refloat it.

Initially estimated to be 50 feet in length, the carcass was later measured around 30 feet and has been put under guard to prevent "scavenging", as BBC News reports.

The whale was one of a pod of five whose remaining members have since stranded and died across the Wash in the Skegness area, according to the Irish Examiner.

A number of those carcasses have since been vandalised with graffiti reading 'Fukushima RIP', 'CND' and 'mans fault' [sic] – alleging a connection between the Japanese nuclear plant disaster in 2011 and the health of marine wildlife in the world's oceans.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

#Ambergris - The idea of 'whale vomit' is surely off-putting to most, but to high-end perfume companies it's worth more than gold - much to the delight of two Irish surfers who believe they've found a lump of the stuff.

The Irish Daily Star, via IrishCentral, reports that Alan Davey and Brian Miller discovered the turnip-sized lump of what appears to be whale excrement on the beach at the popular surfing haunt of Lahinch on the Co Clare coast.

And if it turns out to be the product of a sperm whale, it might well contain the valuable substance known as ambergris - produced in their digestive tract, and traditionally used as a key ingredient in perfumes - and could fetch the pair a cool €50,000.

A similar find on a beach at Morecambe in Lancashire last month could be worth as much as €115,000 to its finder, according to The Guardian.

Published in Coastal Notes

#MarineWildlife - Sperm whales and a killer whale were among the finds on the last big effort of this year's Cetaceans on the Frontier survey led jointly by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, marine scientists from GMIT's Marine and Freshwater Research Centre are on board the RV Celtic Explorer to carry out the fourth dedicated survey of cetaceans on the continental shelf edge.

The ship was surveying a zig-zag pattern in the Atlantic yesterday 2 February, some 55 nautical miles west-by-northwest of Achill Island (visible on this map HERE) when the team encountered at least two sperm whales, though an elusive third may also have been present - as indicated by the hydrophone being towed 200m behind the vessel.

"The blows continued and as we got closer, more and more body of the surfacing whale could be seen until we were treated to some reasonable views of the steep nose, long flat back and stumpy dorsal fin on initial surfacing followed by a thick tail stock with ‘knuckles’ seen when flaking," writes Niall Keogh on the Cetaceans on the Frontier blog.

Soon after that, the researchers were treated to their first sight of a killer whale in Irish waters - followed by a number of pilot whales surfacing close to the ship.

Photos of the team's finds can be seen HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife

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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