Friday 24 November 2017

Video: Rare sighting of Beluga Whale off the Irish coast

The rare arctic whale was spotted off the coast of Antrim
Photo: Gordon Watson
The rare arctic whale was spotted off the coast of Antrim Photo: Gordon Watson

This amazing footage shows a rare sighting of a Beluga Whale off the Irish coast.

The beluga whale was seen surfacing near Dunseverick, Co Antrim on Thursday.

It is believed to be the first ever sighting in Northern Ireland.

The beluga whale is normally found over 3,000km away around the Barents sea, eastwards of the the Svalbard Archipelago.

This sighting marks what is believed to be the 17th time in 100 years that this type of whale has been seen in Britain and Ireland.

There have been just two recorded sightings of the whale in the Republic of Ireland – one off Clare Island, Co Mayo in 1948 and another at Cobh, Co Cork in 1988.

The rare arctic whale was spotted off the coast of Antrim. Photo: Gordon Watson
The rare arctic whale was spotted off the coast of Antrim. Photo: Gordon Watson

Gordon Watson spotted the whale off the Irish coast, between Portbraddan and Dunseverick in Antrim, when he travelled there primarily to photograph jellyfish.

He saw the rare arctic whale swimming beneath the cliffs and managed to get his camera out in time to record the elusive animal.

The footage shows the whale swimming calmly through the water before it surfaces briefly and goes back under.

Belugas are small whales about five to six metres in length. Adults are distinctively pure white with a small bulbous head, and display when surfacing an arched smooth back without any dorsal fin.

Peter Evans, Director of the Sea Watch Foundation, who helped identify the whale, said that the arctic whale could have come this far south because of the unusually low sea temperatures this summer.

“This is not the first arctic species to occur in Britain this year," he said.

“Back in February, the first European sighting of a bowhead whale was captured on a smartphone in the Isles of Scilly.

“In that instance it was thought that the fragmentation of floating ice may have resulted in whales typically associated with pack ice, straying much further south.

“Whether the same has occurred in the case of this beluga is not clear but sea temperatures have been unusually low this summer,” he said.

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