Island visits, musical renditions, and the incredible wildlife of our west coast

Beginning of our latest survey onboard Celtic Mist was slightly different from others legs. Unfortunately we got stuck in Dingle for two days because of high wind, which is why the crew was fully reunited only on Monday (instead of Saturday like the usual). But staying on Celtic Mist in Dingle’s Marina wasn’t so bad after all. Saturday evening, old and new crew members shared their marine wildlife and Irish experiences together in a local pub, with a take away fish n chips on Celtic Mist to end a lovely night.

Sunday, we all enjoyed Dingle in different ways. Some of us went for a long walk into town or to the top of the hill to discover the harbour from another perspective, while others enjoyed their free time shopping, or swimming (Robbie, the bravest!). After a nice dinner on the boat, we all went out for a good classic Irish session in a pub. Local players joined the session with their own instruments all night long and as soon as one of them sang, everyone in the pub got quiet to listen. An intense, fantastic experience!

On Monday the Celtic Mist crew all finally reunited, and it was the usual time for provision, safety brief and a talk about this week’s purpose. A funny night full of jokes and a Murphy’s ice cream later we all went to bed, “tomorrow we can finally sail”!

We left Dingle the next morning, planning to go south to spend the night in Cahersiveen, but before that we got closer to the magnificent Blaskets Islands. Conditions were not the best and a light swell made it harder (sea legs in progress). During the day we had few sightings of commons dolphins. They were just passing by, checking on us for a second but not very interested by bow riding Celtic Mist, but we were still glad to be able to spot these beautiful animals playing with waves. By the end of the day, on our way to Cahersiveen, protected between mountains and Valentia Island we sailed a calmer sea with amazing views and colours as the sun went down. After arriving at our destination, we enjoyed a walk in the small town and a swim. To finish this day, we had a tasty diner with a fabulous sunset and again more laughs at Róisín’s jokes in particular. We planned our next day and the decision was made to go to the Skellig Islands as the weather was improving. We all went to bed very exciting for the next day. “We are going to the Skelligs!!”

Wednesday morning was very nice, cloudy but with almost no wind. This is the more important for surveying because it means no waves or white caps meaning that you can spot animals more easily. Sails up to be stable with the swell, we left this sheltered bay to go south again and further from the coast. It was a quiet morning with a few sightings of common dolphins. Approaching lunch time, more and more gannets were spotted flying in the same direction as us. And here they were in front of us, far away at first, but as time went by, we could see them more and more clearly – the Skelligs Island. Even more magnificent with a clear sky! We sailed close to appreciate this breath-taking nature and felt so small next to it. We tried to imagine how life would be out there. It’s hard to believe that monks used to live on this rock. The second island was just as incredible, with the second largest gannet colony of the world on it. This astonishing landscape with thousands of gannets flying around the area and common dolphins feeding was our lunch spot.

We kept going with our survey after that, in the direction of Kenmare River as we planned to end the day in Ardgroom harbour. During this quiet afternoon our dynamic trio, Róisín, Una & Ruth, experimented by playing music to call the cetaceans. We sang different music styles, traditional Irish music, pop from the 80’s or even religious hymns. Even if it wasn’t successful (this day anyway), we had a craic. We arrived in the evening in the harbour, and moored for the night thanks to a local mussel farmer who kindly let us use his spot and gave us a big bag of fresh mussels for a very nice diner!

We woke up Thursday morning surrounded by lovely lights on the mountains, almost peaceful, but the crew was already on deck ready for our last sailing day! Leaving Kenmare River with great conditions, we spotted a pod of playful common dolphins and for the first time this week we were able to observe them very close as they came bow riding Celtic Mist. Out of Kenmare River we sailed once more southwest, Bantry being our destination today. We experimented again with another kind of music today to attract cetaceans to us, the tin whistle! Róisín played nice music during the afternoon as we came into Bantry bay. Believe it or not, it worked!

The end of the day in Bantry bay was crazy! We spotted many common dolphins feeding with gannets and Manx shearwaters along with three Minke Whales! But one of us, Síofra, was super lucky… she spotted one of the northern bottlenose whales that had been in Bantry bay over the past week. This sighting is very unusual as these animals are supposed to live in deeper water out of the continental shelf, but we were glad to have this sighting and be able to document it. It was a fantastic end for our last sailing day and we were all delighted with our sailing week. Because of late sightings was arrived late in Bantry and decided to have a fish n chips once again. We all went to bad after a long day with our head full of beautiful images that will last for a very long time.

Friday morning was our last moment together as a crew on Celtic Mist. After a joyful breakfast as always, we enjoyed a little bit more of Bantry bay and observed more common dolphins and Minke whales. Thanks again to them for this opportunity!

We want to thanks our enthusiastic crew for helping with our scientific programme.

𝑇ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑦𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑠 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑦𝑠 𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑟𝑢𝑛 𝑖𝑛 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑜𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ Fair Seas. 𝐷𝑢𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝐶𝑒𝑙𝑡𝑖𝑐 𝑀𝑖𝑠𝑡 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑣𝑒𝑦𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑆𝑜𝑢𝑡ℎ𝑤𝑒𝑠𝑡 𝐶𝑜𝑎𝑠𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝐿𝑜𝑜𝑝 𝐻𝑒𝑎𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝐾𝑒𝑛𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑒 𝐴𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝐼𝑛𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑡 (𝐴𝑜𝐼) 𝑐𝑜𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑣𝑖𝑡𝑎𝑙 𝑖𝑛𝑓𝑜𝑟𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑓𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑜𝑢𝑟 𝑤𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠.