A family of rare orca killer whales have been spotted by scientists off the coast of Ireland.
Researchers aboard the Marine Institute’s Celtic Explorer vessel were thrilled to witness a pod of seven of the huge creatures, with their distinctive black and white markings, as they breached Atlantic waters off the south-west coast.
The sighting was made as part of the ongoing Cetaceans on the Frontier Survey being carried out as part of the national Sea Change strategy.
The orcas, which can weigh up to six tonnes and measure up to 8m in length, were photo-graphed and documented by the team on Friday as they breached waters near the deep-water Porcupine Seabight.
“Two enormous, black, triangular dorsal fins came looming out of the water together on our starboard side no more than 50m out,” the team stated on their blog.
“As the minutes ticked by at incredible speed our count increased from two to three to five to seven. A mix of large fins and medium to small fins were noted, indicating a family group.
“After 20 minutes or so of fantastic viewing with photo-ID images secured, the group of killer whales split off on their own track and we left them to it continuing back on our survey route.”
The 20-minute sighting was the first time some of the ship’s veteran explorers had ever seen the killer whales. But it was a case of beginner’s luck for some students on board.
“Some of the marine mammal observers present today have many hundreds of observation hours and thousands of at-seas miles under their belt without having encountered killer whales before today, whilst for some of the students joining us on the trip for their first time offshore, things could not have worked out better.”
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