Posted by: orcaweb | August 3, 2016

Swell or swell sightings?

Hello everyone! I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself, my name is Katie and I am ORCA’s newest intern on the Wildlife Officer programme on board the Cap Finisteré. It is nearing the end of my first week on board and the two main things that have been on my mind are the swell, and of course the swell sightings! As I am writing this, I can tell you that I am feeling a little seasick because it has been a bit choppy in the Bay of Biscay this afternoon. The curtains in my cabin are dancing backwards and forwards and the water in my bottle is jigging around, but nothing has fallen over yet, aside from me… Having said this, it has been a brilliant week! I have learnt so much and had some wonderful sightings of cetaceans under the brilliant guidance of the lovely Yolanda, one of our resident Wildlife Officers.


Unusual sighting up on deck 10 – Brittany Ferries’ Pierre Le Bear took a break from steering the ship to come and help me spot cetaceans!

Once I was finally able to find my way up onto deck 10 on my first day (it’s a big ship!) Yolanda and I began surveying. Our first deck watch was in the channel which I have been told can sometimes be quite hit and miss with the number of cetaceans that are seen. Unfortunately I was lacking in beginners luck as we didn’t see anything that day, but I certainly was not disheartened! It was great to chat to the passengers on board and learn more about surveying, including how to record the weather conditions.

On my second day on board I had an absolute whale of a time, if you excuse the pun. With a grand total of 21 fin whales as well as many sightings of common dolphins, some of which came right up to the boat, it is safe to say I was very pleased! Since then I have been impressing passengers with “fun fin facts” about fin whales’ asymmetrical colouration and incredible size- passengers find it hard to believe that they are 28 meters long and so wouldn’t even fit on deck with us!


Fin whale approaching the ship at about 50 meters away.

Over the next four days I became somewhat of an expert on fin whales as we had many more sightings of them. We even saw them in coastal waters that are roughly 200 meters deep; areas we wouldn’t normally expect to see them. We also saw more common dolphins, possible bottlenose and striped dolphins and even three possible minke whales! Luckily we were able to share some of these sightings with passengers on board and it was amazing to have the opportunity to watch children see dolphins for the first time. Seeing their faces light up as they shrieked with excitement when they saw dolphins close to the side of the boat was great!


A lovely sighting of some common dolphins- spot the calf!

My first week has also included some really beautiful sunsets and plentiful seabird sightings. There have been many gannets and shearwaters flying around that therefore provide entertainment when the cetaceans are being elusive, which is generally more often than not!


Sunset over the Bay of Biscay.


A gannet joining us for a sail

Overall it has been a brilliant week for me here on board and I am thrilled to be joined next week by Lucy, another of ORCAs resident Wildlife Officers. A big thank you also to Yolanda for showing me the ropes! I hope that I will continue to learn lots and I also have my fingers crossed for some killer whale sightings as they are my favourite! Well either that or a blue whale would be nice… I think I’ve almost found my sea-legs as well which is good news!

If you would like to make a donation to help fund the fantastic work that ORCA do, or to become a member and train to become a Marine Mammal Surveyor to help us collect our vital scientific data, then please visit our website for more information!


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