Another incredible week on the Pont-Aven with sightings of fin whales, beaked whales, sunfish and even a blue shark!
The end of the UK school summer holidays brought with it a huge number of school children returning from their holidays abroad. Less than excited to head back to resume their school career, I had the absolute pleasure of giving them one last incredible memory that they will hopefully remember for years to come!
Returning from Santander to the UK we were luckily enough to spot huge congregations of sea birds diving into the water; knowing that this is normally a good indication that there are marine mammals around, my eyes were glued to my binoculars in the hope of spotting these incredible creatures. Alerting passengers that there was a pretty good chance that there could be some marine life in the area I lifted my binoculars, and sure enough, as soon as my binoculars had reached my eyes I was rewarded. A huge school of tuna jumping out of the water, following by leaping and jumping common dolphins, was just off of our port side. The water was churning with the flurry of activity as the dolphins cut through the water and the tuna leaped clear of the waves glinting like diamonds as the sun caught their scales. It was a fantastic end to the passenger’s holiday and as one young boy said, ‘the best part of the holiday!’.
As the week progressed more and more passengers were rewarded with their persistence in scanning the seas in an attempt to spot the mysterious and wonderous creatures that lie beneath the waves. After a relatively slow start to our trip down through the Bay of Biscay towards Santander, only a few whale blows having been spotted far off in the distance, we eventually reached the Torrelvega and the Santander deep sea canyons. This is where the trip started to get very exciting, very quickly! I was standing in my usual spot on the top deck with the sun shining down on me, surrounded by passengers soaking up the September sun, when a young couple came up and spoke to me, it turns out they had been watching out for whales and dolphins for a few hours and had come to ask me whether there was still a chance to see any of the large whales where we were now. Right as they had finished asking me this question, as if on cue, a large spout of water issue from the waves just off the forward section of the port side, not 150m from the side of the ship! My loud cry of “WHALE!!” startled many of the sunbathing passengers who nonetheless abandoned their sun soaked pursuits to stare in amazement and awe as the 2nd largest animal on the planet (the mighty fin whale) tracked down the port side of the ship. Its enormous back and asymmetrical colouring on its jaw clearly visible through the clear blue water. All that was left was for me to answer the young couple’s question with a resounding yes, yes there is still a chance!
As we continued to make our way along the deep sea canyons drawing closer to Spain, my eyes were drawn to a brown shape in the water close in towards the side of the ship. Upon closer inspection it was revealed that it was a Cuvier’s beaked whale, drifting serenely along! It is always an exciting and thrilling experience seeing the deepest diving marine mammal on the planet not 200m from the side of the ship!
I’m looking forward to another packed week of sightings, so be sure to check in again next week!
ORCA Wildlife Officer – Bay of Biscay