Posted by: orcaweb | July 24, 2013

8 species in one day!!! and Dolphins galore!

Hey! It’s Katrina and Ana reporting from the Cap Finistere.

Portsmouth – Bilbao (17/07/2013 – 18/07/2013)

It was a great start to the week on board. After the talk we headed out onto deck for a watch. The sea was calm, making it easy for cetaceans to be spotted. Between 15:30 and 16:30 we managed to see 4 Harbour porpoises gently swimming alongside the ship around half way towards the horizon. They looked very black against the calm see with the sun behind us. Was beautiful!

We had a good morning Thursday. As we approached the northern continental shelf (an area that splits the coastal zone (depth of 200m) from the deep pelagic zone (depth of 4000m)) we had our first sighting, consisting of 6 Pilot Whales!


                                                  Pilot Whales

This was followed an hour and a half later by 2 groups of dolphins, one made up of Striped Dolphins the other we were unable to identify. Three groups of Common Dolphins were then spotted shortly after one another from 9am varying in size with the largest consisting of 30 individuals and the smallest of just 3 individuals.

The afternoon exceeded all expectations! We had a good crowd up of deck, and within 15mins of being on deck, we were met by a group of 10 Striped Dolphins breaching close to the ship. This was followed soon after by a couple of what we believed to be Bottlenose Dolphins; quite a way from the ship, casually swimming in the opposite direction. The next sighting was the best yet. Not far from the ship we noticed a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, just as we were focusing on them an enormous whale emerged from the water right beside the ship. As soon as it came up to the surface it turned on its side and dived again. At first we believe it to of been a Fin Whale (the 2nd largest whale in our oceans) but after looking at the pictures we wondered if it could of possibly been a Sei Whale with its sharp, tall fin.


Fin or Sei Whale?

This wasn’t the end of our sightings, a half hour after the whale sighting we saw 5 very large dorsal fins emerging from the bow of the ship. We soon realised these dorsal fins were owned by Risso Dolphins, each having very black fins with white-grey backs created by scarring from the Risso’s fighting one another. The next hour was very quiet with only 2 more sightings consisting of Common Dolphins in pods of 6 and 3 individuals.


Risso Dolphin


Common Dolphin

Portsmouth – Santander (20/07/2013)

Our morning deck watch found us over the northern continental shelf of the Bay of Biscay. It was a flat calm day, so we hoped for some good sightings. We weren’t disappointed! Our first sighting consisted of a pod of Common Dolphins this was followed by another 8 pods the smallest consisting of 2 individuals and our largest consisting of 20. All went quiet for a short time, but 9am came and we had our first sighting of Pilot Whales in amongst a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins! They were swimming quite a distance from the ship but it was easy to make out the shape of the ‘smurfs hat’ dorsal fin of the Pilot Whales.


Pilot Whales

A few minutes later at the bow of the ship we noticed a 2nd, very large pod of Pilot Whales, consisting of around 20 individuals! By this time we had quite a crowd on deck so it was nice to give them a chance to see these magnificent creatures and there majestic way of moving through the ocean. However, the best was still yet to come. Just to the side of the ship popped up a pair of medium sized brown whales, which swam very quickly away from the ship. After studying the photos later on we still couldn’t confirm if these whales were Northern Bottlenose Whales or Cuvier’s Beaked Whales?


A pair of Northern Bottlenose Whales or Cuvier’s Beaked Whales?

Shortly after, we saw what looked like a small shark swimming towards the ship. Having never seen a shark like this before I don’t know what sp. it was, but a great sight none the less.  For the next hour we had a series of sightings consisting of Common Dolphins all leaping out of the water towards the ship, creating a great spectacle for everyone on board, even those in side as the dolphins played in the stern waves. We then went in for our talk, upon arrival back out on deck we had been told by a couple we’d missed a Fin Whale! a pod of Risso Dolphins and another small pod of Pilot Whales. He showed us his pictures so we knew it was true. However, we were not deterred and soon we had a spectacular sighting of Striped Dolphins, all of which were doing back flips and belly flops in the water making some very large splashes! We had reached the pelagic zone by now (an area reaching a depth of 4000m) and Ana very much wanted to see a Fin Whale after our sighting on Thursday. She didn’t have to wait long. A very black object came up to the surface around 1km from the ship and gave a very large blow! It was a very majestic creature and with how long it took before we saw its dorsal fin it was definitely a Fin Whale.But his wasn’t the end of our most incredible day. Around half hour after the Fin Whale, we saw a whale breach out of the water creating a huge splash! The whale looked like a fat elongated dolphin and we knew instantly that it was a pair of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales!


                              Cuvier’s Beaked Whale breaching!

We had another sighting of these playful creatures a little later, a pair of them swimming by the ship, one with an extremely pale back! All in all we couldn’t of asked for a better day. If we included the Risso Dolphins we have seen 8 species!! A record for both Ana and myself.

Santander – Portsmouth (21/07/2013)


                          Common Dolphins

It was a dolphin gala today! The morning deck watch consisted of 12 sightings of Common Dolphins all varying in pod sizes from 4 individuals up to 40. The majority of them came bounding and leaping in towards the ship; either playing at the bow of the ship or in the stern waves towards the back.We also had a lovely sighting of a pod of 4 what we believe to be Bottlenose Dolphins. They were much larger than common dolphins but due to their distance from the ship we were unable to identify  them fully.

Roscoff – Bilbao (22/07/2013)


Common Dolphin Breaching

What an afternoon!! Overall we saw a total of around 700 dolphins!! It has been incredible with dolphin sightings occurring every 5-10minutes. It was generally pod sizes between 5-40 Common Dolphins but then towards the end as we came near to the continental shelf we had a pod of over 300 dolphins Common Dolphins all racing in towards the ship from every direction! It was incredible and it gave time for passengers who were inside to come out and get a really good look at this gracious but very acrobatic animals! A half hour after this sighting we had a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins looking very large and black against the now mirror calm sea, they were quite away from the ship but still easy to identify. After another pod of Common Dolphins we then sighted another pod of Bottlenose Dolphins but this time it contained 3 Pilot Whales within it! With light fading fast we called it a night, but the Pilot Whales were a perfect end to our very busy evening out on deck.

Bilbao – Portsmouth (23/07/2013)


Striped Dolphin

We have had such a good week in terms of sea states I think we almost forgot what a sea state of 4 looks like. Walking up on deck this afternoon this is what we were greeted with. With lots of white caps it makes it very hard to spot cetaceans within the water. However, despite this we were greeted very quickly by a sighting of Striped Dolphins quite away from the ship creating a lot of splashes when jumping. This was followed almost an hour later by another pod of striped dolphins this time a little closer to the ship so the passengers on board were able to see the beautiful blaze pattern along their side. Half an hour later we had a pod of 6 Common Dolphins racing in towards the bow of the ship. This unfortunately was the last of our sightings for 3.5hrs. However, the sightings picked up slightly as we neared the northern continental shelf in the evening. We were greeted by 10 sightings of Common Dolphins over a period of 3hrs ranging in pod sizes from 1 to 20 individuals.

All in all it’s been an amazing week aboard the Cap Finistere and we’re very much looking forward to what we can see this week.

Stay tuned

Ana & Katrina


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