A father and son from Kerry made a splash in more ways than one when they posted video footage of their close encounter with a pod of humpback whales.
Terry Deane and his 14-year-old son Tomás, from Camp on the Dingle peninsula, chose June 21, the longest day of the year, to go whale watching up the coast near Brandon in their rib boat.
"We were observing three animals feeding for about an hour, but then they came over to the boat to check us out,” said Terry who used his son's mobile phone to record the spectacular moment.
Tomás was at the end of the rib filming underwater when suddenly one of the humpbacks 'spyhopped' out of the water - a whale's version of a submarine periscope that allows it to see its surroundings.
“There he was just towering over him. We were shaking, not with fear, but in awe."
Simon Berrow, CEO of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, was amazed at the video footage and said his organisation was familiar with two of the whales. “One was seen in 2016 and another has been recorded in 2013. These encounters will become more frequent, because the number of humpbacks are increasing and they are spending more time in Irish waters.”
The magical moment when a 14-year-old boy came face to face with a humpback whale off the Co Kerry coast 🐋 pic.twitter.com/g6Yr0MP3zr— RTÉ News (@rtenews) July 16, 2019
Last April the IWDG solved the longstanding mystery of the birthplace of humpback whales around Irish waters, after discovering a breeding ground for them in the Cape Verde islands off west Africa.
On an excursion to Boavista Island, marine biologist Dr Berrow photographed a humpback previously pictured breaching off west Kerry in 2015. It would have travelled 5,000kms to rich feeding grounds off our coast.
“They move around the Irish coast,” says Simon.
Whales spotted off west Cork have moved to west Kerry. One of the ones that Terry and Tomás filmed has moved off the Blaskets. They move around with the fish, eating sand eels and sprat.
Mick Sheeran, who runs Blasket Island Ecomarine Tours, is used to encountering whales while conducting wildlife tours on his 43ft boat. “Coming into the season, we saw about six humpbacks around 20 miles off the Blaskets,” says Mick, who also helps with the cataloguing and identification of humpback whales in Irish waters by obtaining photo identification shots which he passes on to the IWDG for validation and inclusion in the Group's database.
Rarer creatures get him equally excited, among them a rare white leucistic harbour porpoise. “It's a bit like an albino but it has colour in its eyes. We spotted it a few hundred yards off Slea Head.
"We also spied a couple of snowy owls on the Great Blasket, the ones featured in the Harry Potter movies. That is very rare.”