Posted by: orcaweb | April 22, 2015

Wildlife Officers and passengers treated to Saturday show stopper!

Once again tranquil Thursdays did not disappoint! We had a glorious sea state two throughout the day and were blessed with several pods of playful and curious Common dolphins during both deck watches. We even had mixed pods of Commons and the incredibly acrobatic Striped dolphins, who put on a fantastic leaping show for us and passengers.


Striped dolphins


Leaping Common dolphin

This was followed by two Cuvier’s beaked whales within 100m of the ship- my first ever sighting of these bizarre looking whales! One of the whales was clearly a mature male due to the extensive scarring on its body, making it appear almost white. This scarring is the result of fighting between males, using their tusks (two teeth either side of the male’s mouth) when competing for mates. The second whale was a chocolate brown colour and sported a few scars-possibly a juvenile male.

Cuviers larger

On Friday we were faced with a sea state six on our morning deck watch, which meant we had to stop surveying early due to the unreliability of the data. We did however have an excellent afternoon of making whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles using recycled plastic bottles, paper rolls and cereal boxes, with lots of energetic children!


Turtles using recycled materials

The weekend sightings were only to become more spectacular. Saturday’s deck watch started with a whirl wind of weather changes. Thunder and lightning meant we couldn’t survey but we were eager to get out on deck to see what the Pelagic deep seas would bring! We only had to wait a short while before glorious sunshine burst through the gloomy clouds. We spent the first 30 minutes with a deck full of passengers watching our ever faithful Common dolphins showing off, when something caught my eye. I turned to the left to see an almighty blow. Upon hearing me shout “whale blow!” passengers turned to see an enormous dark object in the water. Within seconds we knew this was the Greyhound of the sea- the mighty Fin whale!


Incredible Fin whale blow!

We wondered how long it would be before this beautiful animal decided to take a deep breath and disappear down into the deep blue sea, but this whale was determined to give passengers an everlasting and memorable experience! The whale came within 50 metres of us, blowing several times and rolling slowly through the water’s surface, waiting for the ship to pass by. This enabled us to clearly see its two blowholes and defined splash guard, as well as the distinct low, backswept dorsal fin and unique asymmetrical jaw colouration. We couldn’t quite believe our luck at how incredible this encounter was and were left with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction as we approached Santander.


Fin whale


Fin whale

As the end of the Wildlife Officer week drew near, we were anticipating our Tuesday crossing, knowing that this would bring us a day over the beautiful Bay of Biscay. After having completed the presentation to a group of keen passengers, we headed up on to deck to see what the day had to offer. Sure enough, within just the first half an hour, we spotted three massive blows, giving away the locations of some large Rorquals from between the waves.

We were convinced that this would be the order of the day, but after five hours of fruitless surveying, we began to feel less optimistic. However, the finale sighting of our deck watch certainly proved to be worth the wait! Before we knew it, pod after pod of Pilot whales began appearing just 400 metres away from the ship, numbering around 50 individuals. The wide based dorsal fin of the males and the slow graceful movements of the animals helped us to identify them – our first pod of the season!

Bay of Biscay, you’ve done us proud!


Pilot whale


Pilot whales





whimbrels poss

Flock of Whimbrels



The answer to last week’s trivia question is:

The largest recorded pod of Common dolphins in European waters is over 500! Common dolphins are extremely social animals and have been seen around the world in pods of up to thousands of individuals!

This week’s trivia question is:

How deep can Cuvier’s beaked whales dive to?

If you would like to support ORCA you can give a donation or become a member.  We are also delighted to be offering Wildlife Officer placements this summer on the Cap Finistere.  You’ll get to learn how to ID whales and dolphins as well as assist us in running the Wildlife Officer activities on board the ship.  Find out more on our website!

Until next time,

Chantelle and Tiffany


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