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Sunday 21 October 2018

Scientists find home of 'elusive' whale

A beaked whale breaches the waves off the west coast. Photo: Ashley Bennison (UCC)
A beaked whale breaches the waves off the west coast. Photo: Ashley Bennison (UCC)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Marine Institute scientists have uncovered an "incredibly significant" habitat of elusive beaked whales during an expedition near the Rockall Trough, some 400kms off the west coast.

Very little is known about beaked whales, as they are rarely encountered at sea and are shy around vessels. Researchers on the RV Celtic Voyager had planned to use acoustic technology during a survey in early November to identify their habitats, but got more than they bargained for.

Four separate groups of whales were found breaching the waters within a couple of hours near the Rockall Trough, which scientists said was a "rare encounter".

"It's incredibly significant," chief scientist Dr Patricia Breen from NUI Galway said. "They're an enigma. It's interesting we've identified an area where they are in numbers. We think the groups encountered were either Sowerby's or True's beaked whale, possibly both. They are incredibly difficult to positively identify at sea."

The whales dive to depths of up to 2.5km in search of squid, and are believed to grow up to six metres long.

Irish Independent

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