Sea Echoes: Whale sightings off the Cork coast

Sea Echoes: Whale sightings off the Cork coast
Humpback whale. Pic: Patrick Whooley.

“Who would have thought that Ireland is now one of the best places in Europe to see humpback whales?” 

So says Simon Berrow, Head of Science at the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, as “we enter the whale season.” 

“Ten years ago the humpback whale season peaked off West Cork in November. Now they are observed from as early as April and May and occur through to January and February.” 

We were discussing the humpback and listening to the sounds it makes as it sings on its breeding grounds and how it supports marine tourism around the world and off West Cork and other Irish coastal locations. 

The humpback has been a protected species since the 1970s and populations in most oceans have increased.

“They are returning to their former haunts. We don’t know the breeding grounds of humpback whales which come to Irish waters, but all the evidence suggests West Africa is their most likely origin,” Simon told me on my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION, where he revealed that the Whale and Dolphin has identified 85 individual whales in a photo catalogue which it has compiled. 

“Over 50 per cent of these whales have been seen in more than one year, showing that the same whales are returning to Ireland each year. We have matched individual whales between Ireland and Norway, the Netherlands, Gibraltar and Iceland, where most matches occur.” 

It is painstaking and dedicated work by the Group. The magnificent photograph of a humpback pictured here was taken by Padraig Whooley, Sightings Officer of the IWDG.


I stood in the large congregation at Forde’s Funeral Home in Carrigaline on Sunday evening in memory of one of the most respected figures in boat building who died unexpectedly. 

Pat Lake had led Castlepoint Boatyard in Crosshaven for many years, before his retirement a decade ago. He was a major figure in boat building, maintenance and the maritime scene. 

His record includes many achievements, not least of which was his involvement in the building of the leather boat at Crosshaven Boatyard for the famous St Brendan recreation voyage in 1976. 

Those of my generation who keep a boat learned a lot from Pat Lake and deeply regret his passing.


In all the talk, some would call it ‘blather,’ at the political party pre-Dail ‘think-ins’ has there been a single thought expressed about the fishing industry or the marine sector?

I haven’t seen any such references reported.


As the trend in shipping leads to bigger and bigger container ships, an American company has claimed that it will “revolutionise container shipping to release cargo shippers and shipping companies from the constraints and congestion caused by mega container ships and mega ports.” Such congestion is becoming a shipping issue.

SeaHorse Shipping says it can build deep-sea semi-submersible vessels which would be capable of carrying six short-sea container ships aboard. 

“The deep-sea vessel would never go into port. It would use existing heavy-lift technology to float out the smaller vessels carrying containers outside their destination ports to which they would then sail,” the company says.

Tomorrow in ECHO SPORT SAILING – October beckons 


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