As divers we often have close up encounters with many varied and wonderful sea creatures. As it is “downtime” here at Oceanaddicts in the run up to Christmas, I find myself reflecting on my encounters over the past dive season. One of the most exciting things about diving in Ireland is that every season, and indeed every dive is different. Some years we see lots of a particular animal and other years we only get a few.
This year was a fantastic year for cetaceans. We had pods of Common Dolphins hanging around the entrance to Kinsale harbour, many having tiny babies little more that half a meter long. On returning from a dive one day in late July we were attracted by a lot of dolphins leaping out of the water.
When we got a little closer we discovered that they were attacking a harbour porpoise, jumping on top of it and not allowing it to surface for air. This behaviour has been seen before outside Cork Harbour and also in Cardigan Bay in Wales by Bottle Nose Dolphins. The reason is unclear, it may be over territory, food, or just for the fun of it. For whatever reason the porpoise usually comes off at the worst end and many are killed or die from internal injuries due to the “beatings” from their larger cousins. Nature can be cruel.
I had a much more gentle, if fleeting encounter, early in July while surfacing from a dive at Bream Rock. I had just deployed my SMB and notice a large shoal of sprat behaving strangely, they started to from into a loose bait ball. I then noticed the black shadow overhead. It was a Minke whale and it swam down right beside me, it’s large eye checking me out as it passed. I was not sure what type of whale it was but Graham confirmed it was a minke when we surfaced. My buddy on the day was equipped with a camera and set up for macro photography, Murphy is alive and well in Cork and his law ruled that day.
Of course we also have many encounters with curious seals. The most notable one “tapped “me on the shoulder when I had just removed my mask while teaching an Open Water course. I turned my head to see, if a bit blurry, two big blue eyes looking at me. Then it was game time as the playful seal didn’t care that this was a training dive, but it’s playfulness was infectious, just as well we had been on the last skill for that dive.
We saw many species of fish. One of the most unusual was a Boar Fish seen early in the season at Black Head.The Boar fish is generally found in waters 50 to 100meters deep and deeper so it was strange to find it at 14m. There were many sightings of different tpes of Blennys, Tompot, Red and Yarrell’s Blennys. While snorkeling it was not unusual to spot Shannys peeping from the crevices of rocks. Again at Black Head, our seasearch adopted site this year, we were intrigued by the presence of apparently sleeping cat sharks (dogfish), we saw them on every dive crammed into the same crack in the rock. We learned how a conger eel goes into it hole in the rock, as it was recorded by one of our guests https://www.facebook.com/mary.brown.921025/videos/10155426396041702/
There were no shortage of invertebrates, with many species of crabs, shrimp spotted along with lobster and crayfish. Reefs carpeted with anemones and sponges were home to little cuttle fish, octopus and many species of nudibranch and worms.
With record numbers tuning into Blue Planet II which recently aired on BBC let us not forget that our little patch of Ocean is as diverse and interesting and full of life as any tropical reef. It’s there waiting to be explored and enjoyed. To keep it that way please remember to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle your plastic waste.
This is just a short snapshot of what our divers encountered while diving with us in 2017, I wonder what we’ll see in 2018…..I can’t wait