Posted by: orcaweb | June 30, 2011


I’m back onboard for my third full shift and this time I’ve been joined by our new recruit Ivo. This week we had good weather, gales and loads and loads of dolphins.

I started the week on my own travelling to and from Bilbao. News was that the trip out to Bilbao was going to be rough. A force 9 gale had been predicted suggesting strong winds and large swells. Although the storms calmed down the sea was still dominated by white horses, making the chances of seeing any marine life slim. My only sighting was a solitary small ocean sunfish, or mola fish, off the North West corner of France. Sunfish are strange creatures and actually hold the title of the world’s largest bony fish. In the water they look like huge dustbin lids with half a face. They can grow to over 3m in diameter and have two large fins at the base and top of their bodies which seem to be almost completely useless. The animals float passed the ship “flip-flopping” in a rather awkward fashion on their migration north. The bad weather continued to hamper efforts until Tuesday when I left Bilbao for the second time this week.

Tuesday was one of those days that will stay with me. After no whale or dolphin sightings for four days the ocean became alive with activity. Not long after we had left Bilbao I saw my first whale while giving a presentation to passengers. A beaked whale appeared at the stern of the ship and passed by almost on queue. Towards the end of the presentation we were joined by several common pods playfully jumping around in the wake of the ship. These were followed by a pod of striped dolphins. Over the next three hours common dolphins appeared in waves of five to seventy individuals and the odd beaked whale made an appearance as well. Although estimating the size of dolphin pods is rather difficult I would put a total estimate that somewhere between 800 and 1000 dolphins had decided to visit the Cap Finistere that day.

On Wednesday I picked Ivo inPortsmouthwho had a great start to his career as a whale and dolphin officer when we left for Santander. I will leave him to tell the story………..

Hello everyone,

My name is Ivo and I recently joined ORCA’s amazing team. I find cetaceans extremely interesting because of the fact that despite our modern technologies and advanced science they are still covered in mysteries even nowadays. I absolutely love the great experience as Whale & Dolphin Officer because it feels like venturing into a world of hidden secrets; an exploration journey to the heart of the whales and dolphins realm. Every time there is a sighting we stand a great chance of learning something new about these magnificent animals. My first day on board of Cap Finistere was also my birthday; we left Portsmouth at midday and we spent the rest of the day cruising through the English Channel. The weather on Wednesday wasn’t working in our favor as we had to face very strong wind which also affected the sea surface making it impossible for us to spot any signs of cetaceans. By the end of the day I was praying to see at least the sunset but it was hidden from us by a dense cloud system. Despite the lack of sightings I had a great day with Mike, who is absolutely brilliant, and a very knowledgeable Whale and Dolphin officer. He spent a lot of his time introducing me to the everyday life on board of Cap Finistere and also sharing his experience with me. The ship crew was extremely nice and welcoming and made us feel like at home.

Mike was ensuring me that on Thursday we were going to have a really good day for whale watching. On Thursday morning just a couple of hours before we arrived in Santander we had a great start of the day seeing a Cuvier’s beaked whale that was headed towards deeper waters. The animal was surfacing calmly displaying his distinctive orangey-brown colour. We arrived in Santander around midday and we had 2 hours to enjoy the lovely Spanish weather and explore the seaside. On our way back to Portsmouth we had multiple sightings of small and large pods of common and striped dolphins, a single Long-finned pilot whale.

After such an exciting trip I have memories that will stay with me forever. I would like to give a massive Thank you!!! to the whole ORCA team for making this possible. They are all extremely dedicated and doing an amazing job to help preserve the whales and dolphins and I feel so grateful to be part of the team.

Thank you!

Keep yours eyes open for our next blog which will be appearing next Friday when Nathan comes back onto the Cap Finistere.

Mike & Ivo

Whale & Dolphin Officers

Cap Finistere



  1. Hi Nathan We were with you on the Cap Finistere sailing to Bilboa on Friday 2 June. Thanks we enjoyed your talk on Orca very much + we stood on deck with you but no sightings!
    Just to say on our return journey on Tuesday 21 June on board the Pont Aven we saw a pod of Dolphins! Their wer about 10-20 of them swimming towards the boat on the France side. It was 9:15 am English time. We were so excited + wished taht you had been there with us!
    Keep up this importan work!
    Sheelagh + Colin Raybone Paul+ Jean Bassitt

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