Stormy seas turned into a super Saturday with sensational sightings in the Bay of Biscay.
Exhaustion. The feeling followed me when I started the third week of my Wildlife Officer Placement. Most of the crew work for a week at a time, two at the maximum – and there’s a good reason for it. As a Wildlife Officer Placement, I am spending four weeks on board the Cap Finistère. Four weeks on sea, only interrupted by short visits on land, around 2-3 times a week for a few hours.
The storm that hit the Bay last week had not only left an impression on the people on board; but the sea also seemed oddly different. Before the storm we could roughly predict on which parts of our deck watches we could see the great whales in double digits, but now things had shifted. It seemed as if the ocean was eager to confuse and surprise us – and it surely did.
As we woke up on Friday morning, a glimpse of the English Channel out of our cabin window offered the unexpected: the calm after the storm! As we headed up to deck 10 our eyes got bigger and bigger: “Is this a dream?”, I asked Emma in disbelief. The sun had just started to rise on the cotton candy clouds over the horizon. Sea state 0, mirror calm seas – whale watching heaven!
What a great start in the day, curing the fatigue of a dedicated whale lover in a split second! And it continued to get better by the minute, as we were welcomed by a pod of dolphins as they greeted the rising sun.
Little did I know that this week was going to bring the most sightings of my placement so far! The calm waters continued during the week, allowing us to spot several minke whales and a pod of four tiny harbour porpoises – both firsts for me during my time on the Cap Finistère.
But as it turned out, the Channel was only the very start of the madness that the Biscay had prepared for us, as we found out on Super Saturday! At 6am sharp, a superpod of over 200 common dolphins kickstarted our day, dropping by dolphin by dolphin and staying with us over an hour. I think I might have doubled the number of dolphins I’ve seen in my life on that very day! One dedicated passenger had woken up early to see some dolphins and as the wildlife kept appearing, he quickly picked up a lot of the tips to spot and identify animals that we were giving him. Bit by bit, more curious people made their way up on deck to join our watch, just to see us baffled when we realized the latest sightings that we believed were dolphins, were actually huge jumping tuna!
On that very day we had sightings of hundreds of common dolphins and plenty of striped dolphins, my very first pod of long-finned pilot whales, beaked whales, minke whales and fin whales. And the remainder of this week would bring us many more!
As I am writing this, the third of my four weeks as a Wildlife Officer Placement is over. It has been tiring but every time I step on deck and see the first whale or dolphin, I know I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
Wildlife Officer Placement - The Bay of Biscay