Out of the blue: rare sighting

REMARKABLE footage of one of the world’s largest creatures in acrobatic display has been captured in Irish waters.

Giant humpback whales have been filmed breaching in the sea three miles off Hook Head, Co Wexford, providing some of the most dramatic wildlife footage ever shot around the coast.

Padraig Whooley, of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG), chartered a boat after reports of large numbers of whales in the area since new year.

“One of the largest creatures on the planet ‘exploding’ out of the water is truly one of the most remarkable sights in the animal kingdom,” he said. “None of the researchers had previously witnessed it in Irish waters.”

Images of the humpback taken last Saturday have been sent to the College of the Atlantic, Maine, in the United States, for matching with the North Atlantic Humpback database which contains an extensive ID catalogue of over 5,000 individually recognisable whales.

Humpbacks, once hunted to near-extinction, are now found in every ocean and can grow to about 50 feet (15m) and weigh up to 40 tonnes.

Scientists are not sure if breaching serves some purpose, such as cleaning pests from the whale’s skin or whether whales simply do it for fun.

They are often found near coastlines feeding on tiny shrimp-like krill, plankton and small fish.

Wildlife filmmaker Ross Bartley was on board to capture the 45-minute spectacle in high definition. The footage will be screened in the upcoming Wild Journeys series on RTÉ, which tells the story of humpback whale migration between Ireland and the Cape Verde islands.

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