Spouts of whales, spells of porpoises, low pressure and a steady rain of dolphins!
Before I started working as a Wildlife Officer, I didn’t know what to expect. My forecast predicted spouts of whales, spells of porpoises, low pressure and a steady rain of dolphins. However, I didn't expect to find myself publically salsa dancing with a giant bear in a Spanish dress. Or to become engrossed in conversations with passengers about bunting. I didn’t expect to play the piano to a room full of people, rather than my usual judgemental audience of my highly critical dog.
You see, life on the ship can’t really be forecasted. One minute you might be pointing out dolphins and then the next you might be having some down time with Pierre Le Bear, Brittany Ferries’ beloved mascot. It’s certainly not a usual kind of existence, as we’ve learnt usual kinds of people don’t tend to live on ferries.
We’ve had a lot of fun getting to know all the entertainers who’ve been on board. When they’re not entertaining the passengers, they switch to entertaining us! I look forward to dinner when we are often serenaded with heartfelt odes to ketchup on bread and filled in on all the funny stories of the day. I am also proud to say we often eat in the company of a real life mermaid and her pirate husband!
We’ve also gotten to know the officers in the bridge. One particularly cold foggy morning, they invited us in for a cup of tea and a nose at all their high tech navigational equipment. I have never seen so many buttons that I am not allowed to press in one room! They showed us how they operate the boat, revealing the secrets behind some of the buttons and switches.
We also naturally meet a lot of passengers, on their ways to and from adventures. I truly believe you could write a book called the ‘Lives and Tales of Brittany Ferry Passengers’. Some tell us happy stories, others tell us slightly sadder stories and some just like to play the ukulele.
But although we are lucky to meet lots of people on board, we are always hoping to meet types of the less human and more finned variety. This week we have been treated to hundreds of common dolphins, all seemingly competing to jump the highest out the water. One pod was made up of 250 individuals alone!
We also saw pilot whales, beaked whales, striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and even a blue shark! I’d never seen a blue shark before, so almost leapt over the railings at the sight of it. We were also lucky enough to experience some calmer weather, allowing us to spot several sunfish floating beneath the surface. At first, I refused to admit they were a real life animal. How could years of evolution result in the creation of the sunfish? A dinner plate with two awkward little flapping fins.
Of all the things to forecast, cetaceans are incredibly unpredictable. Although they tend more often than not to pleasantly surprise us. The forecast for my week off is a lot easier to predict; lots of sleeping and frequent visits to Greggs. I’ll look forward to hearing about the people and whales Louise and Emma meet whilst I’m gone.
ORCA Wildlife Officer – Bay of Biscay