Posted by: orcaweb | May 6, 2011

Back on Board!

Hello everyone!

Just to fill you all in on the last to weeks on the Cap Finistere in the Bay of Biscay. A fortnight after my training week I stepped back on the Cap Finistere to properly start working as a voluntary wildlife officer for ORCA. I was hopeful that the fortnight would be as exciting as has my training. It has been! I have seen several species that were new to me as well as large pods of dolphins and some interesting weather.

Rather unsurprisingly, given their name, I have seen common dolphin frequently as well as the similar sized striped dolphins. I’ve also been lucky enough to see several endangered fin whales often just catching a distant blow but occasionally a closer encounter. In fact on the 23rd of April I was to share this experience with several passengers including Simon Howes who took some excellent photos (see attachments).

Photo of Common Dolphin by Simon Howes

While travelling back to Portsmouth I spotted my first ever minke whale trashing around in the English Channel just north of the Channel Islands. Despite being small for a baleen whale these animals are an impressive sight and can create huge splashes.

The 28th of April was another fantastic day as I got to see two species for the very first time. After catching sights of playful common and striped dolphins in the Bay of Biscay four bottlenose dolphins bounded through the water and right under the ship. Although I was aware of their larger size they seem huge compared to the common and striped dolphins. If this wasn’t enough I then got a glimpse of a beaked whale. Minutes later another appeared, a Cuvier’s beaked whale, followed by two more. An excellent sight!

I will remember Sunday for other reasons. After leaving Portsmouth the heavens opened as thunder and lighting filled the sky but the sea remained flat. Rain, which was pounding down, turned into hail stones which gradually grow to the size of ten pence coins forcing me to stand inside listening to them rebounding off the ship’s top deck and hull. Luckily this extreme weather did not last and the Bay of Biscay remained calm.

After Sunday things were still calm and dolphins kept dancing around the vessel although the closest I got to a whale was an inflatable blue orca which lived in the ship’s swimming pool. It was still great to chat with people and share experience of whale spotting and talk about the conservation of these fascinating animals. I especially like conversing with children and young adults offering advice on studying marine biology (which I would recommend to anybody who has a strong interest). I hope that this was useful. I also saw some brilliant pictures drawn by some younger passengers inspired by Nathan!

Yesterday was a great day with several sightings of small dolphin pods followed by a session sunbathing on a beautiful beach in Santander. I returned to the ship after a dip in the Atlantic Ocean hoping for a good final trip back to Portsmouth. I was not to be disappointed. The cliffs of Spain ere quiet but a couple of hours offshore I saw plumes from fin whales in the deeper waters of the Bay of Biscay. In total I saw three of these beautiful animals gradually coming closer to the ship. As the last fin hale slipped from waves of common dolphin came towards the ship and soon over a hundred had surrounded the vessel. These superpods are impressive sights the experience is still giving me a high despite a night of little sleep and a six hour train journey ahead.

I hope that these blogs are interesting and I’m looking forward to writing my next in a few weeks time. For now I hand you back to Nathan’s more then capable hands.

Thanks to everyone who has donated money and time as well as any new and old members and remember to check out ORCA on twitter and facebook!

Kind regards

Mike

(Cap Finistere Wildlife Officer).

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