Posted by: orcaweb | May 28, 2013

Dolphins, Fin Whale & Orcas!!!

Portsmouth to Santander (22/05/2013)

Today the weather wasn’t great with a sea state 4 and a swell of 2m, it was going to be tricky seeing anything against the many white caps that were visible. The dawn watch didn’t bring any sightings. However, after my talk I managed to get a good sized group of people out on deck and within a few minutes we caught our first glimpse of around 30-40 Common Dolphins making their way towards the bow of the ship. This was followed very soon by an extremely large pod which must have consisted of over 100 individuals; they just kept coming, playing down the side and at the stern of the ship. It went very quiet for nearly an hour, and then once again we were greeted by 10 smaller sized pods of Common Dolphins ranging in size from 5-20 individuals between 11.50am and 12.35pm. They afternoon was very quiet and the weather worsened as we got nearer Santander which meant that we had to call the deck watch off from 3pm.

Santander to Plymouth (23/05/2013)

No sightings today because the weather was poor with a sea state of 5 and a swell of 2m. This later died down to a sea state of 3 and a swell of 1m. Also an hour and a half away from Plymouth we encountered six naval ships which looked as though they were conducting an exercise. We were with them nearly all the way into Plymouth. I wonder if the amount of shipping activity that we were encountering as we entered Plymouth had an effect on the no sightings recorded because of the amount of noise that would have been generated by these large naval vessels.

Cork – Roscoff (25/5/2013)

Leaving port half hour late, I was quickly out on deck. Was a gorgeous day, sun shining and a sea state of 2 making conditions near enough perfect for seeing cetaceans. After taking 1/2 – 3/4s hour to get out of Cork harbour, I saw the first sighting of a Bottlenose dolphin swimming in-between the Pont Aven and a rib that was driving past. This unfortunately was the only sighting today but the calm sea conditions throughout the evening got me excited for what we might be able to see tomorrow.

Plymouth – Santander (26 & 27/5/2013)

With a sea state of 3 and going into a head wind, we unfortunately didn’t see anything as we came out of Plymouth Sunday afternoon, apart from a couple of Gannets, a Pomarine Skua and a Fulmar, fingers crossed for tomorrow morning.

Monday morning started off bright with a lovely red sun rising over the sea. Sea conditions were good with a sea state of 2, a less than 1m swell and good visibility. After getting out on deck at half five with a group of 7 eager passengers it wasn’t long before we were greeted by our first sighting consisting of 3 Common Dolphins breaching at the bow of the ship. This was followed in quick succession by another small group consisting of just 4 dolphins. For the next half an hour we were greeted by a further 5 groups of Common Dolphins 2 of which contained calves and one of the groups contained Striped Dolphins. By the time it had reached 6.15am we had seen roughly 130 individual dolphins. We then had a short lull before we saw two more groups of Common Dolphins consisting of 30 individuals in total. Amongst the passengers I had out on deck with me there were two Danish gentlemen, one who works at Exeter university and who has a keen interest in Whales and Dolphins. They both decided to stay out on deck whilst I went and did my talk, and to be honest I wish I had stayed out on deck too. Once I returned out onto deck they informed me that I had just missed two very large whales which were situated only 600m from the ship, consistently producing blows believed to be either Fin or Sei whales. Apparently I also missed a really magnificent sighting of 4-5 Orca’s which were swimming adjacent to the ship over a km away. At first, I must say I didn’t believe them but upon hearing their description of the whales and looking at some of the long distance photos they had, I had to agree with them that they were indeed Orcas. How exciting!! First sighting of Orcas within the bay!! My question is, is this early to be seeing Orcas within the bay?

The two Dutch gentlemen will be back on board Wednesday evening, so fingers crossed we will have a good crossing back to Plymouth Thursday morning.

Santander – Portsmouth (27/5/2013)

Upon leaving Santander I was joined by a great bunch of people up on deck in the hope we would have a good set of sightings throughout the afternoon and evening. Conditions hadn’t much changed since we arrived into Santander earlier today, with a sea state of 2 and a swell less than 1m. Unfortunately the coastal zone and continental shelf proved to provide very little with no sightings recorded until we were around 3hrs out of Santander just exiting the canyons and entering the really deep pelagic zone which extends down to 4000m. With the eagerly awaiting passengers still patiently waiting with me, we were starting to get restless. However, from here on we were not disappointed. From 5pm we thought we may have entered dolphin city! 5.08pm brought with it our first sighting consisting of 30-40 individual Common Dolphins making very large splashes as they played near to the ship. On closer inspection it seemed as though they were chasing or playing with some very large fish which we think were Tuna.

Half an hour later and we were greeted by our second sighting of around 20 dolphins breaching and swimming towards the bow of the ship. Within the next 2 hours we were greeted by a further 10 sightings of Common Dolphins, in pods ranging in size from 5-50 individuals. At this point I was very cold and had to make my way inside. However, this didn’t stop the sightings. After announcing over the tannoy that there were a lot of dolphins coming up to the side of the ship, many people rushed to the windows on all levels, trying to get a look at these beautiful animals as they splashed their way through the water towards the ship. This allowed me to go around to people inside and point the dolphins out to them. The majority of people (including crew) on board were able to see these magnificent dolphins that continued coming towards the ship until around 9pm.

This made it all in all a very successful day with around 390 individual dolphins, 2 rorqual whales and 4-5 Orcas being sighted, and a lot of happy smiling passengers.

 Santander – Portsmouth (28/5/2013)

A dawn arrived we were just going around the coast of Brittany into the English Channel. The morning started off bright with a sea state of 3. I had a few early risers out on deck with me from 6am, but unfortunately the weather turned against us and by 7.30am we were back inside in the warm and dry. Normally after the talk I go straight back out on deck not wanting to miss anytime at sea. However, the rain and high winds meant that this didn’t happen. By 12pm the rain had calmed slightly and the sea was almost like a millpond, extremely flat and calm, excellent conditions for spotting Harbour Porpoises and any movement on the surface. I had a few brave souls come and join me, but after an hour of insistent rain and many of us soaked we admitted defeat and made our way inside for a much needed cup of tea.


Sorry no photos this time round, but i’ll make sure they’re downloaded for the next blog!

Stay tuned for next weeks blog


Katrina – BF Pont Aven







  1. Thanks Katrina for the interesting, informative and enjoyable dolphin spotting sessions. If you are interested I have some good photos of the common dolphins from the 27th may crossing from Santander to Portsmouth.

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