Posted by: orcaweb | April 25, 2017

Sharks and sailing ships

After a somewhat blustery start, we have had another amazing week aboard the Brittany Ferries’ Pont Aven.

Looking out for whales and dolphins is an absolute dream in good weather, but it can be tricky in rougher seas. We certainly had a mixed experience this week! For this reason, weather is one of the important variables we record when we do our surveys. We work with the Beaufort scale which is widely used to describe wind speed based on observing the state of the sea. The scale runs from what is a whale watcher’s dream- a force 0 for mirror calm conditions, up to force 12, a hurricane! As you go along the scale, the waves get larger and the spread of rough white water makes it difficult, if not impossible to tell the difference between the waves and distant dolphins!

This week the Bay of Biscay was starting to show its wilder side: the wind and spray coating both us and the ship which then dried in the hot Spanish sun to look like a dry salty snow. The wind died down later in the day to reveal amazing conditions just in time for our crossing through the Channel to Plymouth. Not only did we spot some lovely common dolphins, coming to brighten up our day, but we also passed the gorgeous ‘Christian Radich’ a Norwegian tall ship.

Later in the week, we had a fabulous sailing from Cork to Roscoff. No sooner had we stepped out on deck after leaving Cork, when we were surrounded by no less than EIGHT basking sharks seemingly unaware of the fuss and scramble for cameras above them. Then arrived the common dolphins too- much to the delight of both of us and a suddenly very busy deck!!


Basking shark


Monday was my last full day on board, and it did not disappoint. Not only did we see plenty of dolphins, but several whales were out to say hello too.


Common dolphin underwater!

I was delighted and in awe to look down over the side of the ship to see a Cuvier’s beaked whale quietly sneaking past us! Had I been seconds later I would have missed the long back rolling through the water. Needless to say we were all pretty excited and completely missed the opportunity to snap a photo!

After that kind of day, I cannot wait to get back on board next week!

Heather – ORCA Wildlife Officer


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