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

About the author

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:
  • 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’.


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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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 237 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.

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