Posted by: orcaweb | July 26, 2017

Chasing the Cachalot

Hello again readers, it’s Kelly here with my last instalment from my 4-week-long Wildlife Officer Placement.

This placement and my time on board has taught me a great deal of things about living at sea, marine wildlife (particularly cetaceans) and also a lot about myself as a person. These 4 weeks have improved my patience, my appreciation and understanding of cetaceans along with my ability to inspire and educate others about the importance of marine conservation. One of the greatest gifts that this time on board has given me was the chance to reignite my love of the sea. The quiet hours of early morning deck watching where it’s just you and the sea are some of the most tranquil and awe inspiring moments. Being able to witness the raw power and beauty behind the crashing waves and feeling the salt caress your cheeks and lips are some of my favourite things. The following verses from John Masefield’s “Sea Fever” poem beautifully depicts the ocean and how like the tide you often can’t help but keep coming back.

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.

I must go down to the seas again to the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover.

And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long tricks over.”

– John Masefield.

I’ve seen a great variety of sea life, from the small and humble harbour porpoise to the great fin whale that can reach up to 28 metres. This week ocean sunfish (Mola mola) have come out to play and they are absolutely fantastic creatures to look at and recent research has discovered a new sunfish species! I’ve learnt what to look out for and identify animals correctly by blows, behavioural cues and dorsal fins. The only things I have yet to see include: Risso’s dolphins, Northern bottlenose whales and last but not least the mighty Sperm whale. Over the course of my 4 week placement I managed to spot a whopping 888 individuals, which reaffirms my belief that there definitely is something in the water and that these animals deserve to be protected.

Another great thing about my time on board was the ability to interact with a variety of different audiences, especially children who seemed extremely keen to share their stories and help you spot every single breaking wave. Being able to engage with children through fun activities, games and crafts and seeing their thirst for knowledge renewed my hope in humanity. They inspired me so much so that I developed an interactive timeline on cetacean evolution and also a playing card game that marries fantasy with reality called ‘whale wars’ (think Pokemon meets Yu-Gi-Oh! but with real life cetaceans). Seeing their faces light up when they saw their first leaping dolphin or whale exhaling felt like I was witnessing their dreams come true.


Delivering the children’s presentation on whales and dolphins on board the Cap Finistere.

I am extremely grateful to ORCA and the Wildlife Officers for giving me the opportunity to inspire, engage and educate others, but also to learn about and be inspired by these absolutely amazing cetaceans. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to know and to share this newfound knowledge with others. At times I definitely felt a bit like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick as the majority of conversations and any down time revolved around whales and dolphins! But unlike Cpt. Ahab I never did spot the sperm whale (cachalot), nevertheless I can say without a doubt that this placement is unlike anything else I’ve experienced and is one of the best things I have ever done. Although my 4 weeks are over, I was able to make memories that will last a lifetime – I sincerely hope this is only the beginning of a wonderfully exciting journey with ORCA and cetacean (and marine) conservation.


Always excited for deck watches and cetacean spotting, even on the last day of the placement!

– Kelly (Wildlife Officer Placement)


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