Posted by: orcaweb | September 24, 2012

Last Trip

Portsmouth-Santander-Portsmouth

Wednesday

Leaving Portsmouth for my last week sailing the Bay of Biscay, as we crossed the channel we passed through numerous flocks of large gannets.

Thursday

As we approached Spain I was spotting the usual sea birds, shearwaters and fulmars however this month there appears to be many skuas about and small wagtails (which you can usually hear before you can see).

The first report of a sighting was when a passenger rushed over from the other side of the boat to tell me about the whales we were passing. As I got to the other side sadly the whales had gone, the passengers had not known what they had seen so they described to me the low bushy blows and how the tail flukes breached the surface as the whale departed the surface for a deep dive. This must have been a couple of sperm whales! (Gutted I missed them). The morning was finished off with a close common dolphin encounter.

Shortly after leaving Bilbao I spotted a couple of fin whales off in the distance but then nothing for roughly 90 minutes. A passenger then came to me and said off the back of the boat they had spotted multiple whales and dolphins. So apparently they were either surfacing after the boat had passed or they were passing on the other side, either way I was missing them. Before I went down I popped to the back of the ship for a panoramic view of the wake and right on cue the blows of fin whales could be seen on the horizon (Maybe I’ll come here more often).

Friday

The channel was once again littered with the large flocks of sea birds however no cetaceans today.

Portsmouth-Bilbao-Portsmouth

Saturday

The conditions today were the calmest they had been all week (I was hopeful).

As I got on deck there were already passengers out, some who were ORCA members. So they are just as used to staring out at the sea as I am. I had missed a couple of encounters with common dolphins but it seemed the fin whales had waited for me to show up, they appeared within 20 minutes of me being on deck. We constantly had encounters with fin whales for the next 40 minutes the closest coming to within 300m, the majority we could just spot from the blow they were producing. There was also the odd dolphin popping up now and again, it was strange not to see them in larger pods.

During my talk I managed to miss some beaked whales and from the looks of the photos taken by the passengers some extremely acrobatic striped dolphins.

 

Sunday

Calm see today meant that we got a couple of harbour porpoise sightings in the channel (they were quite easy to see from the splashes they were creating), along with reports from passengers of dolphins popping up occasionally around the boat.

Portsmouth-Bilbao-Portsmouth

Monday

The calmest day on the sea this month led to me having my most relaxing dolphin encounters of the summer. There wasn’t any battling with the wind to keep my binoculars in the right position, I could easily make out the hour glass pattern on the flanks of the common dolphins breaching.

If only I had a camera I could have shown you a photo of common dolphins breaching in the foreground and a mixture of common and striped breaching towards the horizon which was lit up pink as the sun gave us our last 20 minutes of light for the day.

Tuesday

Both common and striped dolphins appeared out of the back of the ship playing in the wake during my talk today, which is always great as it converts the sceptics to believe that these animals are just living on our door step.

The weather on deck was bleak for the rest of the day and the sea state was gradually getting worse, however me and the faithful band of passengers that had stuck out the strong winds were rewarded with an encounter of at least 200 common dolphins charging down the ship. This encounter was the last big one of the season for me and it seemed to last forever however was probably closer to 15 minutes. My season was finished off with a couple of encounters with small pods of more common dolphins.

 

 

This caps off an amazing summer onboard the Cap finistere, I’ve had some amazing encounters with some of the world’s most peculiar creatures. I have been fascinated about the range of wildlife our oceans contain just a short distance off our coast, this experience has left me with a greater passion help protect cetaceans and the ecosystem they live in. Without these key animals in our world’s oceans the ocean ecosystems would collapse having dramatic effects on the planet. I feel it’s our duty to protect these animals and the marine environment as a whole, so when you are next using a plastic bag, down at the beach or shopping just spare a thought for the oceans and what stunning wildlife they support which is so heavily impacted by our activities on land.

 

Ben

 

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