Posted by: orcaweb | April 1, 2014

Welcomed by Whales!


With spring in the air it can only mean it’s time for ORCAs wildlife officer season to start up again. On Tuesday 25th March I set sail aboard Brittany Ferries Pont Aven from Portsmouth as it starts its meandering trip across the European Atlantic. With a sea state 5 and a swell over 2 metres it started off with quite a bumpy ride, never the less this did not stop the Common dolphins from making an appearance whilst we headed towards our first port, Santander, Spain.

Deck Watch

Deck Watch

The following day, as we started towards Plymouth, the sea state had calmed but the mist and rain encroached, yet the common dolphins still showed their colours, that unmistakable glimpse of yellow, breaching against a rather dull and foggy background. I was joined on deck by passengers who had come to the presentation earlier that day and we had views of Gannets, Juvenile Kittiwakes, Great Skuas and, at one point, a very close and low flying helicopter. As Plymouth came into view the last sighting of the day was in the form of a Jellyfish.



In the two days that followed a lot of traveling was during the night however there were still some daylight hours left for a few short deck watches as we approached and left Ireland though there were no cetacean sightings. It wasn’t long however, until we started our descent back into Biscay and with a very early start, a passenger and I were soon welcomed by some very tall whale blows on the horizon next to a beautiful sunrise. These tall blows were very distant however, the shape was very distinctive of the Fin whale but they weren’t close enough to be sure.

Brittany Ferries Pont Aven

Brittany Ferries Pont Aven

Just as we approached Santander a couple of White egrets flew above the ship and once we had turned around, making our way north, back towards England, a very keen bird watcher informs me that we have a stow-away swallow on board. It wasn’t long until passengers and I had some brief encounters with Bottlenose dolphins however it wasn’t until we entered the deep waters of the abyssal plain where the encounters became much bigger!

Whale blow

Whale blow

Close to sun set and up on deck alone there were a series of 2 very distinct tall blows on the horizon, but this was just a taste of things to come. Only a few minutes later another rorqual blow followed, this time, a lot closer to the Ferry. Port was certainly the place to be this evening, as the sun faded the final sighting of the day were 2 low blows which were very characteristic of the Sperm whale but again I couldn’t be 100% certain of this. They stayed in sight for nearly 5 minutes, passing through the shimmering glare of the sunset as I waved goodnight to the Bay of Biscay.



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