By Aisling Meath
THE seas off West Cork are brimming with activity according to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who have just completed a stock take of local waters in a ship once owned by Charlie Haughey.
In 2016, the group successfully completed its research mission around the Irish coast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the official declaration of Irish waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary.
And now they are undertaking the same tour again, which sees them sailing from Kilrush and around the coast back towards Galway in their research vessel Celtic Mist, which was donated to the group by the family of the late Charles Haughey.
The vessel was originally built in 1974. Originally named La Tina of Hamble, the late Taoiseach Charles Haughey bought it in 1988, renamed it Celtic Mist and refurbished it with a teak and mahogany interior, at a cost of £75,000.
Leg 1 of the journey started from Kilrush to Fenit back in April, with the final Leg due to dock on August 24th. On May 8th skipper Pat Hartigan, accompanied by five IWDG members with Sean O’Callaghan and Gary Kett, marine surveyors, set off on Leg 2 of the voyage from Fenit to Baltimore.
The south western phase of the mission proved very fruitful.
By the time the crew and vessel landed in Baltimore they had witnessed several sightings of minke and humpback whales around the Beara peninsula, Sheep’s Head, as well as around Fastnet and Cape Clear.
As the yacht made its way towards Baltimore, Sean O’Callaghan, a marine surveyor on the voyage, recalled: ‘We thought that was the end of the day but we were wrong as another humpback was waiting for us further east towards Baltimore off Sherkin, with more common dolphin and a minke whale.
‘The humpback came very close to the Mist, it lunged and then fed and even trashed its tail.
‘What a remarkable week we had with no less than 71 sightings of eight species involving 1,426 individual cetaceans while further sightings of eight basking sharks were made in addition to the common seal, one sunfish and three grey seals – the waters around the south west Ireland are very productive at present. The week exceeded all expectations,’ said Sean.
The journey continued with a fresh crew to Cork.