Posted by: orcaweb | April 29, 2014

Pilot whales, Dolphin Calves and Rainbows

Hello again and greetings from the Pont Aven, It’s extremely exciting to be back on the ship and seeing some very familiar faces again. Ready to get started, on Wednesday morning I headed up on deck to a rather wet and windy Biscay. My first presentation saw my biggest crowd yet, with almost 60 passengers attending. After this, I had passengers coming up to me with news of recent sightings, they believed to be Common and Risso’s Dolphins.

With this in mind I was eager to get back out on deck. Spending hours on portside with passengers coming and going and no sightings to speak of, I was finally joined by a lovely lady celebrating her 60th. Just as we were one hour from the Port of Santander she shouts “what’s that over there?”, raising my binoculars I could hardly believe it, all our patience had paid off, It was one of the closest sightings of a Sperm Whale I had ever had. He demonstrated that very distinctive sideways blow many times over and the blow hole was very clear to see through the binoculars.



Sperm whale

This fantastic sighting was followed by some very lovely sunfish.

Making our way over the northern shelf on Thursday morning, Biscay did not disappoint, those wonderful dive bombing Gannets put me onto a pod of Common Dolphins. This group gave a brilliant display and included a calf, my first of the season. It wasn’t long before 10 o’clock came and it was time to give the talk on the Whales and Dolphins in the Bay of Biscay. With approximately 20 passengers attending and getting off to a good start, half way through and for no apparent reason at all, the microphone stops working. After the famous “turn it off and on again” trick didn’t work, improvisation was needed and with a louder voice and moving closer to the audience we reached the end with no further hiccups.



Breaching Common dolphins

Over the following few days, I heard of the rough conditions that were present in Biscay. This rippled up through the channel, with a minimum sea state 5 and ferocious wind.  I decided against a deck watch and made preparations for the first children activities workshop that Sunday evening. The sea did calm towards the end of the day and it was possible to get a few hours of deck watch in. There were no wildlife sightings however, there was a very brightly coloured rainbow was visible for a few minutes off the portside creating a perfect arch in the middle of the sea. It was so large I could not fit it all in to the camera frame.



The rainbow at sea

It was soon time for our final Santander trip for the week and we were not disappointed. On our approach the Pont Aven was treated to the sight of Whale Blows, Common Dolphins, a possible Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and Pilot Whales, my first sighting of these animals for this season. Once we had turned around and started the journey to Portsmouth, passengers and I had fantastic sightings of large dolphin pods including Strips and Commons. The Striped dolphins came very close to the ship, including a mother and calf. The Common Dolphins gave some fantastic displays and as the light faded I was waved off deck by some very large whale blows.



Bow riding Common dolphin

Lets see what lies ahead in the next week…




Some interesting facts: On our approach to Plymouth, on the afternoon deck watch I was joined by a very knowledgeable gentleman. I don’t think there was anything he did not know about the history of Plymouth. Just like Amy and Katy had learnt the spooky history of the Tévennec lighthouse, I was told the history of Smeaton’s Tower. Completed in 1759 this lighthouse stood off shore, lighting the way for many vessels however, this was not the first light house to stand here. The first was made of stone, its builder had so much confidence in its stability that on one particularly vicious, stormy night he stayed in the tower, he and the lighthouse were never seen again. The second to be built was mad entirely of wood. Although surrounded by water, candles were still used to light the way and before long it had burnt down. This is where Smeaton came in. His tower stood here for 118 years until it was mostly dismantled in 1877 due to the underlying stone becoming eroded by the sea. The granite blocks were numbered as they were taken apart, to then be reconstructed on Plymouth Hoe. The lighthouse was not fully dismantled as its construction was so good that its base could not be removed from the stone it stood on. The remaining stump of Smeatons tower can still be seen today lying next to the Eddystone Lighthouse.


Smeatons Tower



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