Posted by: orcaweb | April 24, 2012

Hello from Zak

Trip 11 – Portsmouth to Bilbao & Bilbao to Portsmouth

Hello everyone!

My name is Zak and I’ve just started my turn as wildlife officer here aboard the Cap Finistere. First of all, thanks to both Sophie and Tom for bringing me up to speed with everything. The weather for the trip out to Bilbao was pleasantly sunny – but still a little tricky for whale-watching. With rumours abound of 10 foot squid and driftwood sea-monsters from the starboard side of the ship; I spent my Saturday on the port side – from which we saw several pods of short-beaked common dolphin breaching right next to the ship, and an unidentified whale off towards the horizon. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos!

With the clouds closing in as we reached Bilbao, by the time we left port and got back out into the bay it was too dark to see anything, so I settled in to wait for Sunday morning. Up early and full of hope, I went up on deck to be greeted by sunrise and the howling wind, but very little else.

As time passed, the odd gannet drifted past but still no cetaceans. Just as I was losing hope and we were leaving the bay, a flock of hovering gannets appeared in front of us. As we passed, a pod of at least 10 common dolphins came to greet the ship – probably feeding on a school of fish below the gannets. Sadly due to wind, waves and weather, this was the best shot I could get:

Several flocks of gannets continued to follow the ship with a skua and two of the Alcidae family (Either auks, puffins, guillemots or razorbills – unfortunately they were too far off for me to be sure which) appearing just as we passed between Brittany and the islands offshore.

Almost to reward me for my patience a rainbow appeared too – although if anyone is wondering what’s actually at the end of the rainbow: turns out its rain.

Later on in the English Channel, the weather on deck was fantastic – warm sun and just a gentle breeze in the lee of the wind. The sea however, was not so calm with white crests everywhere.

So no cetaceans, but plenty of birdlife with the usual host of gannets but also another skua circling a fishing boat, and another couple of Alcidae (again too far out to identify).

That’s all from me for now – but I look forward to bringing you some better photos from the next trip!




  1. Hello Tom,
    How are you. The weather has been pretty rough recently. We met you on Cap Finistere on the way back from Santander. My daughter was lucky enough to spot some Dolphins. I was also with my 2 sons. You may not remember as proberly see loads of different people!It was the day you were having trouble with your presentation as the computer did not like your memory stick.

    Hope you have seen a few Dolphins, Whales since we last saw you.

    Best Wishes
    Karen and Victoria

    • Hi Karen,
      Things are good thank you – have been home for a week now after nearly four weeks onboard! I remember you! Hope you are all well and enjoyed your time over there . Your daughter did very well to spot the Dolphins, I am glad that she did!
      All the best,

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