Great White shark, Lydia, tagged in Florida, America, approaching Blasket islands, west coast of Ireland!
Grey seals on Blasket Island beach, Dingle, Ireland
Basking shark heading toward Great Blasket off Dingle Peninsula
Great White shark, Lydia, tagged in Florida, America, approachig Blasket islands, west coast of Ireland!
You can imagine my surprise the other day when I was preparing my potato patch in Baile an Trasna, Ventry, Co. Kerry and I got a call from a reporter from a popular tabloid newspaper asking me did I know anything about the Great White shark approaching the Irish coast! I asked him did he mean the species known as Carcharodon Carcharias that has existed for 400 million years and is older than the [extinct] dinosaurs; that can grow up to 7metres in length and weigh up to 4 ton; that can travel at sustained speeds of 35 m.p.h.; has six very sophisticated senses including hearing, smell, touch, taste [luckily humans taste bad and they usually spit 'em out], sight and electromagnetic sensitivity through the Ampullae of Lorenzini on their snout, which can sense half a billionth of a volt of the electrical field created by the movement of a prey animal; all capped off with 3in. razor sharp teeth with serrated edges, in seven rows in their jaws?
Apparently he was referring to Lydia, a one ton female Great White shark that was tagged off the coast of Florida and has now been tracked to a position approx. 1,000 miles west of the Kerry coast.
Unfortunately for customers of Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tours we don't expect to see her any time soon as with the sea water temperature at the moment around 10 degrees C in Dingle Bay, Co. Kerry it is outside the normal temperature range of the Great White shark which is between 14 degrees C to 20 degrees C. With climate change, water temperatures of 20 degrees C were recorded in Ventry Harbour, Dingle Bay last summer and from mid June onwards sea water temperatures will be creeping steadily up from about 14 degrees C to about 20 degres C in September making the period from mid June to mid December the perfect temperature range for Great White shark to come foraging around Dingle Bay and the Blasket islands to take advantage of the explosion of the seal population around the Blaskets where in excess of 1,250 grey seals were hauled out on the White Strand, Great Blasket Island last week as they go through the annual moulting period of their life cycle
Prospect of Great White shark cruising off the Irish coast in September / October, 2014
Many scientists and marine biolgists now believe that the sea water temperature range and huge increase in the seal populations in the British Isles [west coast of Scotland] and Ireland [Inishkea islands and Blasket islands] are now similar to the conditions off the South African coast where Great White sharks prey on the seal population there and which are not particularly noted for having warm waters. September / October are optimum times when seals are breeding and pupping on the Blasket islands and water temperatures are approaching 19 to 20 degrees C.
If we were to guess a date for Lydia's nearest approach to Irish coastal waters [within 12 nautical miles] we would guess September 21st, 2014 - you can say you heard it here on the "Captain's Log" on www.marinetours.ie
If you love seals please don't look at the YouTube video on the left showing a Great White shark attacking seals! If you want to check the progress of Lydia as she forages her way across the Atlantic along the 14 degree C sea water isotherm please check out www.ocearch.com
Basking Shark - bigger fish by far than the Great White shark - up to 12m in length, up to 7 tons in weight!
What we can guarantee you is that if you book one of our tours for early in the season e.g. April, May, June you will have a very good chance of seeing the biggest fish in the North Atlantic and the second biggest fish in the world after the whale shark - the Basking Shark [Cetorhinus Maximus]. Again their presence here is determined by sea water temperature and the presence of their favourite plankton food source the copepod "calanus finmarchius" which inhabits the plankton blooms near the surface of the water here at about 11 to 12 degrees C sea water temperature range.
Interestingly, phytoplankton blooms this time of year, which start off the zooplankton population explosion which is in turn exploited by krill and sprat on which mega fauna like humpbacks feed on, is more a result of sea water temperature than sunlight, as the cold water this time of year makes it easier for the rich minerals and nutrients from deposited organic ocean bed sediment buried in the bottom cold layers of the ocean and previously "trapped" by the warm upper layers, to mix more easily as the water temperature at the bottom and top layers approach parity. Upwelling and onshore winds then bring this mass of nutrient rich plankton growing material inshore.
Basking shark are majestic creatures, true monsters of the deep, little studied, much misunderstood [reminds me of Captain Whales Galore!].It was formerly believed that they dropped their baleen plates [they have gill rakes rather than baleen plates] on the ocean bed when they had finished their summer foraging! It is now believed they feed on deep water plankton during the winter [possibly near deep sea vents]
We are privileged that the Blasket Islands and Dingle Bay, Co. Kerry are one of the hotspots for basking shark activity in Ireland in early summer when they make their annual pilgrimage to the Blaskets and we often get a chance to cruise slowly alongside them as they filter feed on the surface or engage in mating activities swimming nose to tails or parallel swimming and touching.Book a trip online [home page] on one of our early summer tours [April, May, June] if you want a chance to view one of nature's true mega fauna in the wild, the big "baskers" of the Blaskets, while we are hanging about waiting for Lydia, a relatively small 3.5 m long 1 ton female Great White shark to come a bit closer to our shores. The best thing about taking a tour to watch the giant "baskers" of the Blaskets is that you can count their teeth [well, if we have to be factual they have no teeth only gill rakes] as they swim under the boat from your seat on deck and you don't need to go underwater in a cage to see them!