A MYSTERIOUSLY unseasonal sighting of two humpback whales in Irish waters was confirmed over the weekend when whale watchers got close to two of the giant mammals.
It was a rare opportunity to study the three-tonne giants during April, as the two humpbacks were spotted off the west Cork coast.
Members of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) took to the sea after sighting the pair near an area called The Stags near Castlehaven harbour and were able to capture skin samples and photo identification of the visitors.
One of the whales had previously been spotted near Hook Head in Co Wexford earlier in the year, when sightings are common, while the second was a new addition to Irish waters. Padraig Whooley of IWDG was in the vessel that came broadside of the whales.
"Why these two young humpbacks are here during spring, when years of data shows them to be absent in these months, is a mystery," he said. "We took countless images of them swimming along the surface, mouths agape and baleen plates (which serve whales as teeth) sieving through orange plankton-stained water."
Mr Whooley and the boat's crew witnessed a 15-minute spectacle of 'tail slapping' as one of the humpbacks clearly enjoyed the attention.
"We secured a second humpback biopsy, which is something never before achieved in Irish waters," he added.
The trip also provided encounters with a calf minke whale and a number of basking sharks.