The Irish Air Corps released extremely rare footage of two 80ft fin whales repeatedly breaching waters and doing backflips off the coast of Mizen Head, Co. Cork.

Corporal Aiden Murphy filmed the footage, “one of the rarest and most impressive sights in the natural world,” from a maritime patrol plane that had been carrying out inspections on a tuna fishing fleet. The plane was 1,000ft above sea level, traveling at 160mph when the crew spotted the massive whales.

“We had noticed a whale’s footprint, the mark they leave in the water if you like, which you get used to seeing, but one was literally doing a backflip out of the water,” plane Captain Brendan O’Dowd told the Irish Independent.

“The first whale is actually breaching the water and coming down slapping the surface, and there’s another coming behind it, following along.

“To be able to share the images with the public, to be able to show somebody else this incredible breaching, it’s such a rare thing, a rare sight, it’s fantastic to get it on camera,”

He said he’d never seen anything like it before – he’s spotted whales during his time as a pilot for the Irish Air Corps, but nothing has come close to the way these two were maneuvering.

When the crew returned from their mission, they were notified about reports of fin whales in the area. “Little did they know,” O’Dowd said. “For me personally it was great to get them on video.”

The footage was filmed using a Forward Looking Infrared camera, which is most often used to spot survivors during search and rescue operations, or to identify materials on boats from a distance.


Click for more aerial photos from the Irish Air Corps.

* Originally published in August 2014.