Posted by: orcaweb | April 22, 2013

There she blows!! – the first Sperm whale sighting

Wednesday 10th April 2013 Portsmouth – Santander

After a rocky night, I was on deck at 6.30am to be met by quite strong head winds, drizzle and poor visibility. I decided to stay on deck only until 8am, as conditions weren’t great and I wanted to prepare for my first presentation as a Wildlife Officer. At five minutes to 8, a very nice crew member came up to remind me that I was welcome on the bridge. A very tempting offer for tomorrow if the weather is not great!

At 2pm I was joined by Steve, a keen whale and bird watcher on route to a short break bird watching in Spain. He offered to watch on the other side of the ship, as long as I came round to let him know if I saw anything. Forty minutes later, after scanning the horizon I happened to glance down and see what looked like a Common Dolphin under the water below me. I thought it seemed odd for it to be alone, or that maybe I missed a pod, but a few minutes later five common dolphins swam into view! A minute after that even more showed up, and I managed to run round the corner and shout ‘Dolphins’ just in time. In total we saw about 50 in that pod, and about 2 calves.

At close to 4pm, the captain announced on the loudspeaker that there were whales ahead of the ship. This announcement and the sun coming out brought lots of passengers on deck, and right on cue a pod of common dolphins turned up! We also managed to catch a glimpse of the whales that the announcement had been about. They were just sinking out of sight as I spotted them, but Steve saw a low blow. We think that because of the size, colour and because we were over the deep trenches, they were probably two Cuvier’s Beaked Whales.

Twenty minutes later, and the thing I had been dreaming about happened… I spotted a whale fluking! Yes, it was the wonderful and amazing Sperm Whale that I had been hoping to see, and only about 150m from the ship! It must have been logging (or resting) on the surface before I spotted it diving. This was definitely the highlight of my first day as a wildlife officer.

Tonight we head off from Santander to Plymouth, so should be on the Northern edge of the continental shelf tomorrow morning.

Thursday 11th April 2013 Santander- Plymouth

I spotted four smooth brown/grey shapes in the water quite close to the ship. These appeared to be cetaceans logging (resting) underneath the water. Three of them were medium size and one was smaller, possibly a calf. We couldn’t see any dorsal fins and I unfortunately couldn’t identify what they were!  I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the trip will bring!

– Imogen



  1. Cracking blog Imogen. So you got old ‘Moby Dick’! Well done. What a trip! I’m crossing the Biscay for a short birding break to Spain too in just over a week I hope the Sperm Whale hangs around. Might see you on board!

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