Tuesday 6 December 2016

WATCH: Incredible video captures basking sharks breaching off Donegal

When sharks take flight

Published 23/09/2015 | 13:18

Basking sharks are the biggest fish in Ireland's seas, and breathtaking new footage has emerged of them jumping clear of the water off the Donegal coast.

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The footage, captured this week by Bren Whelan of Wild Atlantic Way Climbing, shows several sharks breaching the surface off Malin Head.

"It has been a truly outstanding week in one of Ireland's most diverse natural areas for scenery and wildlife," Whelan told Independent Travel.

"I witnessed over 300 basking shark breaches, that's a truly outstanding amount," he said. "At times the same shark would breach repeatedly, between two to four times in a row - which is completely unheard of.

"Also during the filming I witnessed unison breaching (two sharks breaching at the same time), which is truly outstanding to see!"

Whelan's day-to-day work as a climbing and adventure guide takes him to the remotest nooks and crannies of the Wild Atlantic Way in Inishowen.

He often carries a range of Nikon and GoPro cameras, a fast and mobile set-up that perfectly positioned him to capitalise on the phenomenon as it occured.

"Given the various tidal surges, at times while filming a sequence, I would have to grab the camera and tripod and scramble to higher ground to avoid the oncoming breaking waves, so being a rock climber came in very handy!"

Basking shark are the second-largest fish in the ocean (only whale shark are larger), growing up to 10 metres in length. As plankton feeders, however, they are practically toothless - and not harmful to humans.

Although the animals can be seen cruising off Ireland's Atlantic Coast between April and September, they remain something of a mystery to marine biologists.

"As far as their breaching behaviour goes, there is hardly any footage of them engaging in this type of behaviour and to date no footage of this quantity or quality has been captured in Ireland or around the World," Whelan says.

Inishowen is fast gaining a reputation as a shark viewing hotspot, with one expert even suggesting Ireland's most northerly point is perfect for a 'Shark Park'.

Visiting recently, Dr Pete Klimley said Malin Head would be the ideal place for a defined area of the ocean dedicated to the conservation of sharks.

"I don't think people in Ireland really understand what a jewel they have... I don't believe there's anywhere else in the world where you could see that," he added.

Find out more on Wild Atlantic Way Climbing at wildatlanticwayclimbing.ie, on Facebook here, or on Twitter here.

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