Posted by: orcaweb | August 14, 2013

Fin Whales and a torpedoing Cuviers Beaked Whale!

We have had some great sightings this week, with more passengers than ever joining us up on our deck watches!

Thursday 08/08/2013- Portsmouth- Bilbao

Today’s deck watch began at sunrise, and not long after heading up on deck, we had a sighting of a small pod of dolphins. But this was just a glimmer of what we were to see throughout the rest of this brilliant whale-infested day! The excitement began when the crew on the bridge alerted us to a pair of Fin Whales travelling towards the ship, straight ahead of us! We noticed two large blows and eventually we managed to see the whales surfacing closer, and closer. Thankfully, this did not end up in a collision but we got amazing views of the two whales as they swam right past us…a mother and a calf! The rest of the morning gave us many more sightings of large whale blows and surfacing Fin Whales:

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Fin Whale

not to mention, we also saw a small pod of Common Dolphins swimming alongside the ship, which included two calves among them. After this it all went a bit quiet…until we noticed a whale shaped silhouette under the water…which then surfaced to reveal its head which showed it to be a Cuviers Beaked Whale!

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Cuviers Beaked Whale

Bilbao- Portsmouth

The afternoon was a similar story, with so many whale blow sightings; it was hard to keep count! Judging by the huge size of all the blows, it was most probable that these were all Fin Whales due to their high abundance in the Bay of Biscay. One blow in particular, we noticed to be particularly enormous…could this have been the Blue Whale that has been spotted in the Bay recently? 

Furthermore, amongst the huge whale blows seen throughout the afternoon was something spectacular…we saw a breaching Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, leaping high into the air like a torpedo, creating enormous splashes! It wasn’t very far away at all, so all the passengers up on deck got a great view of this amazing animal.

Saturday (10/08/2013) – Portsmouth- Santander

This morning’s deck watch starting at the very North of the Bay of Biscay and was relatively busy, right from the word “go” at sunrise, with frequent sightings of Common Dolphin pods travelling at high speeds and some unidentified pods of dolphins too.

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Common Dolphin

On top of this, we had a sighting of the endearing ocean sunfish and a couple of large whale blows which were most likely to be Fin Whales. This was a surprising sight as we had never seen these huge animals so far North of the Bay and we were still in coastal waters at this time!  Typically, during our whale and dolphin talk, a large pod of dolphins appeared, playing in the wake of the ship so we had many excited passengers joining us for the afternoon deck watch. As we arrived up on deck however, a man described a whale to us that he had seen a short while ago and this seemed like it was most definitely a Sperm Whale!

Not long after being up on deck, we saw a group of three huge whale blows in the distance! After seeing the huge bodies of the whales’ surface, we could definitely record them down as a definite Fin Whale sighting.

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Fin Whale

Later on, after a large gap of no sightings besides an impressive looking great shearwater (a large sea bird), we were gifted by a brilliant sighting of a large pod of Common Dolphins, very close to Santander! Everyone up on deck got some fantastic views of these beautiful animals as they porpoised towards the ship in the sunshine!

Sunday (11/08/2013) Santander to Portsmouth

Despite the chilly, damp start, a few passengers happily joined us for a sunrise deck watch, close to the Brittany coast. A few pods of dolphins that we could not identify were seen, as well as great views of an ocean sunfish drifting by, and a very playful pod of Common Dolphins. Travelling so close to the coast also gave us a good opportunity to see a variety of sea birds such as the familiar gannets, lesser black-backed gulls, kittiwakes, terns, petrels, a sooty shearwater and a great skua!

The afternoon deck watch began in the middle of the channel, with beautifully calm seas, meaning it would be easy to spot even the sneakiest cetacean! As we got up on deck, we saw passengers pointing at something in the water; unfortunately we had just missed the sighting, but judging by people’s descriptions, it sounded like they had just seen a Minke Whale! Unfortunately the rest of the deck watch was rather quiet, with just one sighting of a large dolphin (which may have been a lone Bottlenose Dolphin!). However, it was cool to see lots of jelly fish drift by afterwards!

Monday (12/08/2013) – Portsmouth-Bilbao

Today’s deck watch began in the afternoon as we were at the very North of the Bay of Biscay. Because we were in coastal waters, we expected to see dolphins; and that we did! Very soon after coming up on deck we had some great views of common dolphin pods

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Common Dolphins

and this continued for the whole day until sunset, when we saw a large pod of dolphins doing some spectacular breaching some distance away. Judging by their behaviour we think it may have been Striped Dolphins!

Tuesday (13/08/2013) – Bilbao- Portsmouth

With a good turn out to our presentation today, we were optimistic that many passengers would join us up on deck for cetacean spotting over the deep waters of the Bay of Biscay. Typically, we shortly discovered that passengers that were already up on deck saw two large whales (possibly Fin or Sei Whales), a pod of Pilot Whales and a pod of Striped Dolphins were seen during our talk! Although we were fortunate enough to spot one of the large blows as the talk ended. Despite this, and going over the deep under water canyons and pelagic waters during the day, it was very quiet in terms of sightings.

As we started going over the edge of the continental shelf however, we did spot a small pod of (four) Pilot Whales surface slowly about three times! We then saw a few small pods of Common Dolphins that many passengers were pleased to see, not before seeing several pods as the sun was setting, with one particular pod of five, carrying out some lovely synchronised porpoising! 

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Common Dolphins

Overall, it has been yet another week of great sightings!

Thanks for reading,

Chantel and Lucy.

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