Posted by: orcaweb | September 5, 2011

Whales, dolphins and porpoises…

Hi everyone,

It’s been a good week out in the Bay of Biscay on the Cap Finistère. The Fin Whales are still being spotted migrating south to warm equatorial waters and the dolphins continue to play in the ocean. As well as these cetaceans Ivo and myself have seen sharks, sunfish and had a couple more encounters with seabirds.

I returned to the ship last Friday to join Ivo. The weather in Portsmouth was overcast and the seas didn’t seem too inviting. However, on Sunday we awoke to fantastically clear skies and superb whale watching conditions. Throughout the journey south, Common Dolphins appeared alongside the ship, intrigued by its glistening hull, a small insight into the week ahead.

The best day of the week was definitely Monday. We left the French port of Roscoff, after the weekly change of crew, heading for Bilbao the next morning.  Just after midday Common Dolphins started dancing around the ship joined by the odd larger Bottlenose Dolphin. Wave after water of dolphins cascaded towards us for the next few hours with a few Harbour Porpoises near the French coast as well. Although frequently confused with small dolphins, such as Common and Striped Dolphins, porpoises are relatively easy to tell apart. The main indicators are the behaviour of these animals and the shape of their dorsal fins on their backs. Porpoises appear to be quite gentle cetaceans and calmly swim though the seas rarely splashing whereas the smaller dolphins are much more active, frequently jumping clear of the water and kicking up lots of spray.

The presence of dolphins slowly declined throughout the rest of the day. About an hour before sunset the first Fin Whales started to blow in the distance in pods of up to about eight animals. By sunset Ivo and myself had seen over thirty Fin Whales with the majestic pink sky behind – a magnificent sight.

The following day we continued to spot various dolphins and Fin Whales in the flat seas as well as a few large fishes including various sharks and ocean sunfish, the world’s largest bony fish. Thursday was slightly quieter but we still saw plenty of marine life around Santander including Fin Whales, Common Dolphins and also the first sighting of Striped Dolphins that week.

Striped Dolphin taken by Elfyn Pugh

Striped Dolphin taken by Elfyn Pugh

Ivo has now returned to the UK so it’s me and Nathan onboard for the next two weeks. We’ll keep you all informed of what we get up to!

Mike Williams

Whale & Dolphin Officer

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