Posted by: orcaweb | May 26, 2015

Fin whales… In Ireland!?!

As the Pont Aven came into port it was soon time to board and start another 2 weeks traveling across the Bay of Biscay. Our first deck watch whilst sailing away from Portsmouth brought no sign of marine life, however this soon changed by Wednesday.


Pont Aven

After a very successful presentation Rose and I (Becky) were joined on deck 10 by many keen passengers. It didn’t take long before the sightings started, a few distant dolphins swam past however just half an hour into our deck watch was the best sighting of the day. Very unexpectedly and very close by a mother and calf Cuvier’s beaked whale swam slowly past just 100m from the ship. It was such a privilege to see this wonderful pair so close.


A mother and calf Cuvier’s beaked whales

IMG_8747Throughout the rest of the deck watch we had bow riding common dolphins with the largest pod being 45 strong, this also included 5 striped dolphins and mothers with calves.


common dolphin

There were no sightings in the English Channel throughout Thursday however that all changed as we passed through the Celtic sea on our way to Cork on Saturday. Just over an hour into our deck watch a distant blow was spotted on the horizon and was quickly followed by two more. Easily seen with the naked eye at such a distance we knew it could not have been a minke whale. Very excitedly keeping our binoculars and cameras at the ready, hoping these massive and unexpected animals would come closer and show us more than just a blow, we finally saw a role of the back and a dorsal fin. With more blows in the distance, altogether, we saw 8 fin whales! What a fantastic way to start the day.


The huge blows of fin whales


The Pont Aven next to a cruise ship in Ireland


fin whale

On our way out of Ireland, we added yet another whale to the check list as a minke whale quietly snuck past the ship. This was followed closely by a very tall blow. No back was seen but judging by the size of the blow, it is very possible that it could have been another fin wale.On Sunday Rose and I made our way up on deck to watch between Roscoff and Plymouth, this however, came to a very quick end as the Pont Aven sailed into a thick cloud. As fog surrounded us and the fog horn sounded, we decided to head back indoors and start preparations for a wildlife workshop. It has been a while since our last workshop, but with it being half term, there was a noticeable increase of children on board and we all got stuck into marine themed arts and crafts.

DSC_0928On Monday we were on our way to Spain again, crossing the Bay of Biscay, however on both deck watches to and from Spain there was a lot of patchy rain and fog with the visibility changing regularly and a strong wind. Common dolphins were all we saw, but they gave us some fantastic displays and there were many mother and calf pairs breaching side by side.

IMG_8801On Tuesday we were approaching Portsmouth, the morning survey had no sightings within the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel. As this week comes to an end we welcome back Jess Owen to start a new week of surveying the seas for whales and dolphins.

Rebecca Garrity and Rose Massingham

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  1. Fin whales are regularly seen in Ireland, particularly on the South Coast, peaking in November. We’ve been visiting for 15+ years since reading an excellent article in the BBC Wildlife magazine written by Padraig Whooley of the IWDG. Within minutes of arriving at The Old Head of Kinsale we saw several large blows quite clearly from land. We’ve seen fin whales and occasionally humpbacks when we’ve returned each November both from shore and at sea with Colin Barnes of Cork Whale Watch.

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