“Have you seen anything?” Each day as we stand out on deck, we are asked this question more times than we could possibly count, and we tend to be lucky enough to answer with “YES! Yes, we have!” as we reel off the day’s sightings so far. Over the entire season, we have had plenty of extraordinary sightings between us and the four other lovely Wildlife Officers that we shared our time on board the Cap Finistère with. It really has been an unforgettable six months.
As we embarked the Cap Finistère for the first time in March we were pretty apprehensive about the months ahead, having never lived nor worked on board a ship. After 48 return crossings, over 40,000 nautical miles travelled and 112 days out at sea, we can safely say that, although some days have been long and the seas have been less forgiving, we needn’t have worried! From the start we have had incredible support and friendship from the French crew and Entertainment Managers; from showing us the ways of presenting, the art of preparing table bread in the mess, to spotting wildlife on deck with us – Byron, Lucy, Xander and Michelle, it has been an absolute pleasure! Thank you so much for everything!
In our final week, we have sat in our cabin discussing our experiences in the Bay of Biscay; both of us have found trying to choose a favourite sighting is genuinely impossible! This week alone, we have been amazed by some beautiful fin whales, leaping common and bottlenose dolphins, shy harbour porpoises and Cuvier’s beaked whales! We were fortunate to get a close up look at some of these creatures and point them out, to the surprise of many passengers, which is something we have had the joy of doing regularly over the season.
Every encounter with each species has been completely unique – whether it has been from deck 10, during our presentations or out of our cabin window. We have been overwhelmed by pods of hundreds of common dolphins surrounding the ship and in awe of some of the incredible encounters with our fin whales on many occasions! On top of those more frequent sightings, we have had plenty of other cetaceans: harbour porpoises, striped dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, orcas, Cuvier’s beaked whales, minke whales, humpback whales, sei whales and one blue whale. Our sightings don’t stop there. There is such a diversity of life in the sea that we have been able to appreciate. One of our favourites has been the sunfish, they bask in the warm surface waters showing their strange bodies and even leaping on occasion. There certainly are plenty more fish in the sea; we have seen flying fish, lots of tuna, swordfish, blue sharks and basking sharks, along with other unidentified species.
Not only is every cetacean encounter unique, but each crossing we get a completely new group of people to amaze with the world of cetaceans. We have met so many wonderful passengers over these 6 months whom we have shared so many of our experiences with. It has been a delight helping individuals to spot their first (or even 100th) dolphin or whale; seeing their faces light up with excitement, smiling from ear to ear. We have been humbled by the support we have received and the way we have inspired adults and children alike during presentations, quizzes and children’s activities. Thank you to each and every one of the passengers that we have shared our time with!
We really can’t believe that we won’t be getting back on to the Cap Finistère to sail across the Bay of Biscay, but are truly grateful for all the memories and mysteries it has shared with us in the past 6 months. Thank you ORCA and Brittany Ferries for this fantastic opportunity!
Emma & Louise
ORCA Wildlife Officers – The Bay of Biscay
Final sightings maps from the 2019 Cap Finistère Wildlife Officer Season