The search for world-famous dolphin Fungie is to be scaled back this week after Mallow Search and Rescue, despite deploying divers and using side-scan sonar equipment, failed to locate the bottle-nose dolphin on Sunday.
Dingle Dolphin Tours Chairperson Jimmy Flannery has told The Kerryman that efforts to locate the dolphin were made more difficult this week due to unfavourable conditions, but while more intermittent searching will take place going forward, it is unlikely to be anything like the extensive search which captured public imagination in recent days.
“The boatmen are exhausted,” said Mr Flannery, who is away from Dingle at the moment but is involved in co-ordinating search efforts. “I’m exhausted and I’m not even there. They’ve been going out morning, noon, and night.
“Searching has been carried out by Dingle Coast Guard, various boats, and Mallow Search and Rescue, and everywhere he normally would be is turned over. We’ve also been overwhelmed by the number of people out on beaches and strands, out on the cliffs to see if they can catch a glimpse of him. Up to a dozen boats have been involved, and everything from jet-skis to kayaks have been out too.
“We’re satisfied that he’s not there. Boats will continue to go out intermittently, but the search that was being conducted has been called off.
“But we haven’t given up hope, and we never will. If I’m still there in 50 years time, I’ll still look out the window and wonder if he’s going to show up.”
The Kerryman understands that the alarm was raised last week by a couple – who have, for decades, been travelling out to meet and take photographs of the Dingle institution on a non-profit basis – after they had not seen the dolphin for two days, behaviour that is out of the ordinary for the bottlenose dolphin since first coming to Dingle in 1983.
While a potential sighting of Fungie early on Thursday had been reported, subsequent, extensive searching has failed to yield any further sighting. Mr Flannery explained that the Mallow Search and Rescue efforts on Sunday came about after his own worries deepened as the days slipped by.
“I contacted Philip Fitzgibbon from Maharees, who is connected with Mallow Search and Rescue,” he told The Kerryman. “I asked him for his advice, and within half an hour he said that his team was happy to carry out a sweep dive and sonar scan of the area, but nothing whatsoever was seen, despite sea conditions and visibility being perfect.
“Paul Hand reported seeing him on Thursday morning. I’m good friends with Paul, and I’d be 100 per cent sure that was a genuine sighting – but he hasn’t been seen since,” Mr Flannery added.