What an epic day! 63 miles and 11.5 hours of surveying. Sightings of 12 harbour porpoise (two very young babies), 3 minke whales, 3 grey seals and 1 possible common dolphin.
There was lots of activity up on deck during the day including taking turns to climb up into the crow’s nest in the calm waters between the mainland and the Isle of Skye (as modelled by Lena in the photo), Steve counting over 900 Manx shearwaters, who just wouldn’t stay still off Ardnamurchan Point, using the Swarovskis and Alex preparing dinner.
Sheltering from rough weather again after a bumpy ride this morning from Portree on Skye, despite which we saw common dolphins again! Yesterday was a very mixed day of showers, wind, sun, calm sea, rough sea, harbour porpoises, seals, minke whales (two sightings) and common dolphins – 7 or 8 came to bow ride with us as we came into Portree harbour, a perfect end to the day.
As you can see Elke briefly stepped into the skipper’s shoes this morning and gave us a little impromptu chart chat!
Currently holed up at Plockton (mainland Scotland) for the day while some wild and windy weather passes through – the wind is moaning loudly, but the team are quite happy! We are also waiting to collect a new hydrophone as the one on board has stopped working. It’s a morning in the classroom learning seal identification, brushing up on cetacean identification and learning about the wider implications of our work.
We left the wild beauty of Harris yesterday (see photo – our yacht on far right) to head east for shelter from what was forecast, covering 62 miles and some bumpy seas on the way, with Brian and Steve enjoying a go at the helm (Brian in photo).
We had one sighting of a nuclear submarine that surfaced a mile away from us, two seals, four harbour porpoises and possibly a minke whale spotted by Celine – the sea was pretty choppy at that point, so the chance of clear sightings was quite low.
Will be heading to Skye tomorrow with a new hydrophone and a fully rested team.
Group 2 arrived safely, were fully briefed and kitted up with new T-shirts and Buffs, and then we set sail around midday on Wednesday towards Rum and Canna where we quickly lost contact with the outside world. We’ve now headed north west to the Outer Hebrides where there is finally a little bit of contact!
The first day went really well, everyone learnt their duties extremely quickly and we spotted five harbour porpoises, three seals and three common dolphins! One dolphin even came to “bow ride” at the front of the boat. It played in our bow wave for a good few minutes swimming from one side to the other and leaping clear of the water giving everyone a really good view – even Brian who had been preoccupied below deck! Smiles all round – see photos.
Weather and sea state have been variable, we lay in our bunks last night at “Wizard’s Pool” in Loch Skipport, South Uist, listening to the moaning of the wind before the crew took the boat on a midnight journey to another part of the loch because the anchor was slipping. We’re now using that wind to sail silently northwards and see what’s lurking in the mist..
And just as I was wrote this, a 7 – 8 metre basking shark rudely interrupted – spotted by Lena at the front of the boat!
Yesterday we had an excellent grand finale to the expedition when we had a close encounter with two minke whales foraging together north of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. As you can see in the photo only one at a time would pose for us!
So in just under 500 miles we sighted harbour porpoises and seals (common and grey) every day plus six basking sharks, three minke whales, hundreds of guillemots, cormorants, gulls, kittiwakes, gannets and shearwaters and a handful of puffins. All these sightings were plotted on a map of our route (see below) as we travelled and this will be added to the huge amount of data collected by volunteers every summer, which is analysed and used to help protect these incredible species.
A big thank you to the team – Irina, Marcus, Judy, Emily, Verena and Michael and the crew of Stuart & Tom and scientist Olivia!
The longest day; our last full day of surveying and what an exciting one!
61 miles, 6 basking sharks, 1 minke whale, plus the “usual” harbour porpoises and seals.
As you can see everyone spent time on the deck getting up close and personal with the basking sharks just off Coll and Tiree. Then on our way back towards the mainland we encountered our first whale, a “stinky minke” just off Ardnamurchan. Stinky, because you can smell you are in the presence of the whale. Michael also listened to the clicks of a pod of dolphins when he was using the hydrophone. Although the dolphins must have been quite close unfortunately no one saw them. However, we have another chance tomorrow on our way back to Tobermory, so flippers crossed..
We are now exploring the sea lochs on the west side of Mull (in other words sheltering from bad weather and rough seas) and are back in communication with the outside world! Our route has taken us south as far as Northern Ireland and we spent Sunday night anchored at Rathlin Island, County Antrim before heading north again, stopping off at beautiful Colonsay, and back to Mull.
We have seen lots of harbour porpoises and on Sunday we beat the onboard acoustic detection technology – volunteers 12 : hydrophone 7!
As you can see in the photos everyone has been studying hard to brush up on their sea bird identification skills and the whole team have had a chance to pretend to be a bird by climbing 6 m up the main mast into the crow’s nest.
We have uploaded more photos. As we make our way south and away from the internet you will now hear less of us (good! I hear you all shout). We’ll be back with sightings and other reports in due course.
Today’s “catch” was 17 harbour porpoises and two seals. We’ve had some rough conditions, but nobody was sick. We’ve also had some excellent brownies for “second breakfast” and a great Thai dinner. We’ve come into Craobh Haven for the night to shelter from the strong winds. Tomorrow we’re heading south towards the island of Islay and will see what the weather brings. Videos below
Team 1 has arrived safely and we have had our first 24 hours on the research vessel. Yesterday we had introducations and some safety briefings before going for a last shop and turning into our bunks pretty late, although still light at almost 23:00.
Today we’ve had our science training in the morning and our first survey run. It’s been dry, but overcast, but some bad weather is moving in, so for now we are staying in some sheltered lochs.
Our first sighting today was a harbour porpoise and everyone has been busy switching stations: observer, data relayer, data recorder, listener, etc. We’ve also had our first lunch out of cups on the run/survey.
No more videos for now as we snatch the odd patch of GSM coverage to get this to you. So here are a few pictures from our first 24 hours as we are sailing by Duart Castle.