Humpback with grá for Irish waters may have found a mate

‘Boomerang’ observed feeding off southern Irish coast over ten seasons since 2001

The humpback whale whose repeated returns to the Cork coastline earned him the nickname “Boomerang” may have found himself a mate who shares his love for southern Irish waters.

Some "lovely close encounters" involving the pair have been recorded by Andrew Malcolm of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) south of Ardmore, Co Waterford.

Boomerang, a seasonal visitor to the Irish coastline since 2001, was last seen on October 22nd, 2014 in exactly the same sea area where he was photographed last week.

"It marks the 10th year that he has actually been observed here, though he could have been coming every season for the past 14," Mr Malcolm told The Irish Times.


Swimming with HBIRL3 - Boomerang’s formal code - was a second humpback, HBIRL6.

"She's female, she was breaching repeatedly, and has been seen here before when she was filmed for the RTÉ Living the Wildlife series in 2008," Mr Malcolm said.

“She has also been seen with a juvenile in Kerry waters, and could very well be Boomerang’s mate,” he said.

There has been an influx of humpbacks to the Kerry coastline this year, showing how important Irish waters are to some of the world’s largest marine mammals, he said.

Humpbacks grow to a maximum 15.24m (50ft), and are known for their spectacular breach and “lobtailing” with their flukes or tails.

They are also known as the whales that “sing” – being proficient with a medley of moans, groans, bellows, whines and gurgles on their warm-water breeding grounds. They are believed to have different songs and dialects in different regions.

They migrate between summer feeding and winter breeding grounds, and were hunted in these waters over a century ago for Norwegian-owned whaling stations in Co Mayo - with six recorded kills between 1908 and 1922.

The majority of inshore and offshore sightings in Irish waters have in seasonal foraging grounds off the south and south-west coasts, but there have been observations in the Irish Sea and off the north coast – with over 20 humpbacks in total being “photo-identified” for the IWDG since 1995.

The unique pattern and shape of each tail fluke allows for identification, the IWDG says.

Mr Malcolm said that Boomerang’s large “blow” or spray from its blowhole is so big that he has been mistaken for a fin whale in the past.

“We’ve no idea of his age, but he is a big animal..and he likes it here,”he said.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times