Posted by: orcaweb | September 13, 2013

Lots of Fin Whales, large Rorqual Whale Blows, Long-Finned Pilot Whales, Common & Striped Dolphins!

Greetings! Lucy and Ana here reporting from the Cap Finistere.

Portsmouth – Bilbao (4/9/13 – 5/9/13)

We arrived on deck in time to watch a beautiful sunrise, perfectly reflected on the mirror calm ocean. With a sea state of 0 we were hoping for some great sightings and we were not disappointed. Within 30 minutes we saw 2 Fin Whales swimming close to the ship and shortly after this a large mixed pod of Common Dolphins and Striped Dolphins, consisting of 35 individuals and 2 calves, appeared. We had quite a few passengers up on deck with us who were treated to a lovely sighting of several dolphins swimming alongside the ship whilst many others were doing fantastic acrobatics further out to sea.

Acrobatic Striped Dolphins

Acrobatic Striped Dolphins

Following this the captain signalled us from the bridge to go to the other side of the ship. We all eagerly hurried over to the other side and saw 4 Fin Whales swimming very near the ship. On closer inspection we noticed that one of the whales’ dorsal fin appeared at the same time as its blow and instead of rolling through the water it sunk below the surface, characteristics of a Sei Whale.

Possible Sei Whale

Possible Sei Whale

As we were admiring these magnificent animals gracefully swimming alongside us, a passenger alerted us to a huge wall of thick fog beginning to engulf the front of the ship and within seconds we could no longer see the ocean; it was like something from a film! After an hour the fog cleared and the sightings quickly commenced again. The first was a pod of 12 dolphins about halfway to the horizon, but due to their distance we were unable to identify them. Then a pod of Striped Dolphins popped up right next to the ship and stayed with us for a few minutes, playing in the waves beside the ship. Not long after this the crew on the bridge signalled us to go to the other side of the ship, where a Fin Whale was swimming about 50 meters away.

Fin Whale

Fin Whale

As we were enjoying watching this animal swim into the distance, an eagle-eyed passenger noticed 2 whale blows on the horizon in front of the ship. We all eagerly watched the blows get closer and closer until the animals were swimming right alongside us and could easily be identified as Fin Whales. Our final sighting of the morning was a Long-Finned Pilot Whale halfway to the horizon, immediately followed by a large Rorqual Whale blow close to the horizon. It was a very successful morning indeed.

Bilbao – Portsmouth (5/9/13 – 6/9/13)

Following our talk we commenced the afternoon deck watch over the deep sea canyons off the north coast of Spain. We had a large group of passengers with us, but unfortunately the sightings were not as frequent as the morning deck watch. We did, however, see 3 Fin Whales, 2 large Rorqual Whale blows and a pod of Striped Dolphins, who brought a smile to everyone’s face with their fantastic acrobatics.

Blowing Fin Whale

Blowing Fin Whale

Portsmouth – Santander (6/9/13 – 7/9/13)

The sunrise deck watch started in the North of the Bay of Biscay and we had several very eager passengers waiting for us. It was not long before the sightings began, starting with a couple of pods of Common Dolphins and some pods of dolphins that were too far from the ship to identify. Then we had 2 Long-Finned Pilot Whales surface towards the front of the ship. These beautiful black, shiny animals were only 30 meters from the side of the ship and were slowly swimming alongside us, which meant everyone got a really good view of them.

2 Long-Finned Pilot Whales

2 Long-Finned Pilot Whales

A short while later we noticed a pod of 12 dolphins swimming very fast, about halfway to the horizon. These were identified as Striped Dolphins and as they were swimming so fast they remained parallel to the ship for quite a long time. It was nearly 3 hours however, before our next sighting, which appeared just in time as we were about to head inside to give our presentation. This consisted of 2 Fin Whales blowing and gently rolling through the water, a lovely end to the morning deck watch.

2 Fin Whale Blows

2 Fin Whale Blows

As we arrived on back on deck following our presentation a few passengers informed us that they had seen several whale blows, so we were very hopeful for more of these as we travelled over the deep waters to Santander. In total we saw 2 Fin Whales and 4 whale blows that belonged to a large species of Rorqual Whale due to the tall, thick, columnar shape of the blows.

Portsmouth – Bilbao (8/9/13 – 9/9/13)

Following our presentation we had a good crowd of passengers join us for the afternoon deck watch. We were in the northern coastal waters of the Bay of Biscay and had many sightings of Common Dolphins. In total we saw 25 individuals, all of which played in the wake alongside the ship.

Common Dolphin swimming beside the ship

Common Dolphin swimming beside the ship

We also had some great seabird sightings including Manx Shearwaters, Gannets, Fulmars and at one stage had over 20 juvenile gulls circling and soaring above the ship.

Juvenile Gull

Juvenile Gull

Bilbao – Portsmouth (10/9/13 – 11/9/13)

Today’s deck watch took place over the deep sea canyons and deep pelagic waters of the Bay; however sightings were made particularly difficult due to the very strong winds and a sea state of 5. Despite this we had some very committed passengers on deck with us braving the strong winds and their perseverance paid off. We saw 3 Large Rorqual Whale blows, although the blows dispersed quickly in the strong winds making them quite difficult to see at times. But the best sighting was a Fin Whale that surfaced directly in front of us, only 30 meters away! Although the animal only surfaced the once, we got a really good view of its blow, back and dorsal fin, as it gently rolled through the water to dive. Finally, as the sun was setting we saw 2 pods of Common Dolphins and some Gannets beautifully silhouetted against the bright orange sky.

Gannet silhouette

Gannet silhouette

We have had a really good week of sightings, which is a lovely as sadly this is Ana’s last week on board the Cap Finistere.

Lucy & Ana  

A goodbye from Ana:
This was my last week on Cap Finistere and I have really enjoyed the past 6 months sailing across the Bay of Biscay watching lots of whales and dolphins. Thank you to ORCA for this amazing experience and I hope to see you again very soon. Ciao, Ana Alaminos.

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