Find out about Alex's final week and his highlights from the last 6 months on board the KING Seaways!
As the nights get darker and the wind gets even more chilly, unfortunately it also brings about the end to our wildlife officer season on board the KING Seaways. It has been an incredible six months, the only downside being how fast it has flown by! It seems like just yesterday when Rose and I were embarking on our first crossing, learning the ropes of what it is like to work and live on board a busy passenger ferry. In that time, I have had the pleasure of presenting, discussing and showing people the wildlife the North Sea has to offer and also being able to enjoy it all myself. Whether it was passengers without any previous knowledge of whales and dolphins who were just keenly curious or the passionate few with an abundance of prior knowledge, everyone seemed to show an interest in our work, an interest that only cetaceans can encourage.
We definitely weren’t disappointed with cetaceans throughout the season either, some of my highlights being breaching minke whales, mind boggling numbers of harbour porpoise and the unforgettable sunsets. Even for this final week on board the sightings have kept coming, with splashing porpoise, breaching white-beaked dolphins and numerous minkes all being seen. I have noticed that many of the passengers who I have joined me on deck watches this week had never seen cetaceans before, so it’s been extra special to help them spot their first ones. On Saturday evening I was chatting to a man who loved watching whales on documentaries and TV but had never seen them before in the wild. As if on que, a couple of minutes later we were treated to a blow of a minke whale a couple of hundred metres from the bow of the ship. In total we had 4 minkes, including a mother and calf pair, pass by the ship in the space of 5 minutes. It just goes to show that you don’t have to travel to distant, tropical locations to see whales and dolphins, you can do it all right on your doorstep (provided you have a few spare layers of clothing of course!).
Along with all the fun and exciting things I have chatted with passengers about throughout the summer, the variety of different threats facing our seas usually come up as topics of discussion as well, such as plastics, commercial whaling or climate change. It’s very important that we spread awareness of these issues and educate the general public about the threats facing whales and dolphins today, this is being key to why ORCA’s work and the wildlife officer programme is so valuable. While it may all sound doom and gloom I have been inspired to hear some of the individual efforts being done to help out the environment, for example people organising local beach cleans, picking up plastics on the coast or even just taking ferries instead of flying to reduce their carbon footprint. It just goes to show that there is still hope out there and that people are willing to do their bit to help.
As if to say goodbye, for my last crossing I was given calm seas which allowed for some great sightings of minke whales and harbour porpoises. I just want to finish by saying a big thank you to the captains and all the crew on board the KING Seaways, it wouldn’t have been the same without you! That’s all for now folks, tune in next year to find out what happens in the next season on the North Sea.
ORCA Wildlife Officer – North Sea