Posted by: orcaweb | June 10, 2011

Hello Everyone!

After Mike’s busy and exciting time over the last couple of weeks, what with various sightings, meeting Chris Packham and the kids of College Park Infant School,  I thought I may seem a bit short of things to write about. On the Cap Finistere however there is rarely a dull moment and the Bay of Biscay does like to provide us with some absolutely incredible sightings to feast our eyes upon and this week has been no exception.

Looking at a weather report for the week ahead of me as I set off  for Portsmouth last Friday, I did not think I would be having the best of weeks. It certainly hasn’t been a week for sunbathing, lots of clouds and a fair amount of rain has made sure that on occasion I have returned to my cabin at the end of the day a distinctly cold and wet Nathan. However in between these showery times we have had some calm seas clear to the horizon and being here for the whale watching and not for the sunbathing a few words sprung to mind. Bring it on!

After leaving Bilbao on Tuesday morning the passengers on board and I had a relatively quiet day spotting very little at all during the afternoon and early evening. As the passenger started to drift away back down to their cabins or to get some dinner I was beginning to think the day may end as a rare wash out. Just as hope was failing something was spotted a couple of hundred metres from the ship by one of the last dedicated passengers up on deck. Sighting the animal I recognised it as a Minke whale and also spotted it was not alone. Surfacing around it in very close proximity was a group of what from their size and colouration I first took to be Pilot Whales. As they continued to surface I noticed they all lacked the thick dorsal fin and seemed thinner in the body and round the head than I have come to expect in Pilot Whales. These could well have been the possible False Killer Whales that Mike had spotted in the previous week. False Killer Whales are actually large predatory dolphins usually seen in more tropical waters. These rare visitors to the Bay of Biscay are occasionally known to hunt other cetacean species and have even been observed attacking large powerful whales such as the Sperm Whale. It’s possible that the passengers of the Cap Finistere and I were witnessing a very rare sighting of a hunt in progress.

Photo by Dave Chilcott

This excitement on Tuesday was followed on Thursday by seeing my best sighting of a Northern Bottlenose Whale. At only 15 – 20 metres out from the ship and with crystal clear water the passengers who had made it up on deck for 7:30 am were treated to incredible views of this deep diving whale as it passed the ship. During the rest of the Day we also spotted Pilot Whales and over 250 Common Dolphins. Not bad for a day in the Bay of Biscay and more coming next week, hopefully!

I’m looking forward to meeting any of you travelling with us on the Cap Finistere next week and good luck to everyone attending the Volunteer Surveyor training course this weekend in Southampton. For those of you that missed it remember there will be more courses on through the summer. Look on our website at for more information

Keep whale watching!




  1. Sounds like a great trip Nathan. Iv’e got two Biscay trips coming up not on the ‘Cap’ unfortunately but on its bigger brother (or sister!) the ‘Pont Aven’ it would be great to add false killers and Northern bottlenose whales to my list.

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