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Baltimore RNLI volunteer captures unique images of whales ‘bubble net’ feeding

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Image of Nuala McAloon

Nuala McAloon
Press Officer - Ireland

Start quoteThe humpbacks that we came across on Saturday were easy to photograph because they allowed us to get within 50 yards, so we were very close to themEnd quote

Lifeboats News Release

  • Date:
    26/11/2012
  • Author: Nuala McAloon

A volunteer crew member from Baltimore RNLI had the rare opportunity on Saturday to capture on camera, a pair of humpback whales ‘bubble net’ feeding off the coast of West Cork.


Youen Jacob who is a professional photographer and a member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, spent between three and four hours on Saturday following part of what had been a run of humpback whale sightings in the waters between the Stags and the Kedge Island in West Cork.

Youen who was aboard the vessel Cachalot with Richard O’Flynn was soon in the company of not one but a pair of adult humpback whales, during which he got the unusual chance to photograph what are among the first images of the whales ‘bubble net’ feeding.

The technique is a humpback speciality which involves a humpback diving deep to the seabed and slowly swimming to the surface in circles, venting bubbles from their blow holes as they rise.

This behaviour creates a net of bubbles, in effect trapping the small shoaling fish, which make the critical error of swimming to the surface to escape. Once they get to the surface they are trapped and the humpbacks jaws and baleen do the rest.

What was so unique on this occasion was that the pair of humpbacks were using this technique co-operatively, a real treat for whale watchers.

‘This time every year whales come to the Irish coast,’ Youen said. ‘There were reported sightings last month and then again last week. The humpbacks that we came across on Saturday were easy to photograph because they allowed us to get within 50 yards, so we were very close to them. They are placid animals but if they don’t want you to follow them they will let you know so we were lucky in that sense.

Youen said one of the whales had been photographed at different times over a 10 year period but said such sightings off the south coast of Ireland were rare.  

‘I am absolutely delighted with what we were able to photograph at the weekend because we hadn’t seen them doing much for the last five years so it was a unique experience’.

Ends

RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Nuala McAloon RNLI Press Officer on 087 648 3547 or email Nuala_McAloon@rnli.org.uk or Niamh Stephenson RNLI Public Relations Manager on 087 1254 124 or 01 8900 460 email Niamh_Stephenson@rnli.org.uk


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Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 236 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland