Posted by: orcaweb | June 4, 2013

Minke Whale, Northern Bottlenose Whale & Dolphins!

Portsmouth – Santander (29/05/2013)

Weather conditions wasn’t great today, with a sea state of 4-5, a swell of 2m and limited visibility due to rain. Looking for cetaceans became very difficult. Unfortunately, the dawn watch resulted in no cetaceans, this was in part due to us being further north of the continental shelf than normal because of a medical emergency the previous evening. However, after venturing back out on deck at 11 o’clock with sea conditions much the same, we were greeted by our first sighting of the day consisting of an extremely large pod of Common Dolphins coming from all directions towards the bow and the side of the ship. They came in lots of small groups for around 15-20mins giving the passengers on board a really good view of these magnificent creatures.

Throughout the rest of the day as we headed into Santander we had 7 more sightings of Common Dolphins ranging in size from 1-15 individuals. Unfortunately, due to the sea conditions it was very difficult to spot any whales.

 Santander – Plymouth (30/05/2013)

Weather conditions much the same as yesterday with a sea state of 4, a 2m swell. However, the sun was shining, creating a perfect excuse to be out on deck scanning the waves for any cetaceans. Unfortunately though we didn’t see any on our way into Plymouth.

 Plymouth – Roscoff – Cork – Roscoff – Plymouth (31/05/2013 – 02/06/2013)

This weekend brought very little in terms of cetacean sightings. Nothing was seen out of Cork or on our way from Roscoff to Plymouth even though sea and weather conditions were good.

 Plymouth – Santander (02/06/2013 – 03/06/2013)

Sea conditions were good as we left Plymouth with a sea state of 2 and a swell less than 1m. I had lots of passengers visiting me out on deck enquiring about what we could see. It was a slow start with no sightings of Harbour Porpoise or Bottlenose Dolphin. However, 2hrs into our journey we spotted our one and only sighting, which just happened to be a beautiful Minke Whale, which popped up right beside the ship. This was the first time I had seen a Minke Whale around the UK coastline, so I was excited to see the smallest of the baleen whales near to Plymouth

The following morning brought with it bright sunshine, a sea state 3, and a small swell. At sunrise we had our first sighting of Common Dolphins, all racing towards the bow of the ship. In total we had 5 small groups varying in size from 1-10 individuals, all turning up before 6am too! It was a very quiet morning following this but there were many eager passengers taking a great interest in what we could possibly see. Then whilst I was talking to a lovely lady, she asks me what this brown object was that was in the sea. It was only 400m away from the ship and swimming past the ship. On closer inspection we saw it had a very bulbous head and very prominent blow hole on the back of its head which it used on a couple of occasions as it passed us. This and its size led us to believe it was a very active Northern Bottlenose Whale! Seen just before we reached the canyons near Santander it was in its known hotspot. This was all the sightings we had this morning, a relatively quiet one in comparison to previous weeks but got me excited for what we might see on the return journey.

Santander – Portsmouth (03/06/2013)

Not even an hour after leaving Santander and we were greeted by our first sighting of 5 Common Dolphins enjoying the bow waves of the ship. Having been joined by many passengers I had seen a few weeks previously on our way to Santander it was great to be able to show them these beautiful animals so soon after leaving Santander. The afternoon brought with it some really great sightings of Common Dolphins. As the sea state increased to a 3, bordering 4 later into the evening, it was getting difficult to distinguish between waves and what could possibly have been a whale. After leaving Santander we had 4 sightings of Common Dolphins, followed very quickly by a pod of Striped Dolphins swimming past the ship. After 3 more sightings of Common Dolphins we were then surprised to see a whale pop up right next to the side of the ship, roll over and disappear again. This brought many cries from the many passengers out on deck with me. It was very brown in colour and once again had a very bulbous head. It appeared much larger than a dolphin, and we identified it as a possible Northern Bottlenose Whale again. This was seen in roughly the same area as we saw the one that morning raising the question, was it the same one? The evening was good as we managed to see a few more pods of Common Dolphins as the sun started setting. The dolphins seem to appear most at sunrise and sunset, unless we just happen to be in the right place for them at those moments.


Overall it’s been a mixed week in terms of sightings, but after seeing a Minke Whale, Northern Bottlenose Whale and many dolphins, am looking forward to my next two weeks aboard the Pont Aven

Katrina – Wildlife Officer


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