Posted by: orcaweb | June 20, 2013

Fin Whales, Sneaky Beakies, a Slinky Minke, dashing Dolphins and shy Porpoises.

Hello! It’s been another brilliant week on the Pont Aven, with lovely sightings, and many fantastic very interested passengers.

Wednesday 12th June Portsmouth- Santander

This morning’s watch had very poor visibility and unpleasant weather on our approach to the continental shelf. I was joined by one passenger on deck 9, and after sighting four dolphins in the large waves at the back of the ship we decided to move down to deck 6 where it was more sheltered. There we met Peter and his wife, who are both experienced cetacean observers and brilliant spotters!

It wasn’t long before a beautiful pair of common dolphins appeared close to the ship, a mother and her calf jumping beautifully in sync. We were then joined by many passengers on a mornings stroll around the deck, who were rewarded with a pod of 39 common dolphins approaching the ship to many gasps of joy. I then had to leave to do the presentation, and was informed that I missed a pod of around 80 more common dolphins, two more small pods and one pod of 8 Striped Dolphins. On my return I did get to see a pod of 4 more common dolphins before it went quiet for an hour.

Throughout the afternoon we saw several more pods of striped dolphins and common dolphins. At 2pm I moved back up to deck 10 where the weather had really improved, the sun was shining and I was joined by many interested passengers including experienced observer Simon and his girlfriend. They watched from the other side of the ship, and it wasn’t long before they popped back round to report seeing four Cuvier’s Beaked Whales close to the ship, including one definite male breaching slightly. Simon also reported seeing another Cuvier’s at 10am this morning.

Just before reaching Santander we had our final sighting of a completely mixed pod of Common, Striped and Bottlenose Dolphins milling around in the distance, then breaching and approaching the ships wake. What a fantastic and busy day of sightings!

Thursday 13th June Santander – Plymouth

Again, bad weather meant that today’s watches took place on the more sheltered deck 6, where I was once more joined by Peter and his wife. The first watch was very quiet, with the only sightings being two basking sharks, and one ocean sunfish. After the presentation, I spotted a small cetacean close by swimming very quickly away from the ship – my first close sighting of a Harbour Porpoise! Peter then spotted another one just over an hour later. The next few hours were very quiet but we did see many seabirds, including Manx Shearwaters, Fulmars and Gannets.

Monday 17th June Plymouth – Santander

This morning’s watch was overcast, making some sightings tricky to identify. It wasn’t long before the first dolphin appeared, milling around and then swimming close to the ship. Not long after this a large jelly fish drifted past the ship, a pod of 8 common dolphins appeared, and were shortly followed by a striped dolphin breaching beautifully in the wake behind the ship. We then had a pod of about 20 dolphins approach the ship, but from where we were they were silhouetted against the sunlight, and it was tricky to identify the species. However, a passenger joined me on deck after popping down to deck 7 for a cup of coffee, where he had a closer look and could positively identify then as Common Dolphins. Before the morning watch ended we had a mixed pod of four common and striped dolphins appearing below us from the other side of the ship. One of the striped dolphins breached beautifully, giving everyone a clear view of its markings. On returning to a drizzle covered deck after my presentation, I was told I just missed seeing two Cuvier’s Beaked Whales close to the ship!

Santander – Portsmouth

Once again I was joined by many passengers on deck, and we waited… Two hours later the first dolphins appeared! Shortly after that a passenger with me spotted a large whale surfacing in the distance – from the size and amount of back seen we’re pretty certain it was a Fin Whale, the second largest mammal on the planet. We didn’t see a whale blow until 20 minutes later, but after checking our sighting against those of the ORCA survey crew onboard, they confirmed seeing two large whale blows around both these times.

We then saw two medium pods of Striped Dolphins milling around, feeding and breaching spectacularly in the distance. Later that evening I joined several enthusiastic passengers on deck 9, who proved themselves excellent dolphin spotters. Until sunset we had many groups of dolphins approaching the ship, in pods ranging from 1-30 individuals. The beautiful clear sky had some passengers hoping we’d see the green flash, but just before the sun reached the horizon, cloud appeared and foiled their hopes!

Tuesday 18th June Santander – Portsmouth cont.

Today we had an incredibly beautiful sea state as we travelled through the English Channel. I was joined by a few passengers on deck 6, including a young man from Spain and another man who had been on the crossing many times and enjoyed watching. At 12.30 they spotted a shape far in the distance travelling parallel to the ship, after looking at it closely I thought I saw a low blow – a possible Minke Whale sighting!

Imogen (WO Pont Aven)

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