Rebecca recounts her top sighting and question of the week from on board the Pont-Aven.
Top question of the week: Can we really see orca here?! Although rare, the answer is yes! - they are seen in the Bay of Biscay a few times a year. Killer whales (Orcinus orca in latin) are known as “cosmopolitan species”, which means they’re found around the world, with populations from the tropics to the poles. Their name is actually a mistranslation from the original one given by the Norwegians of “whale killer” after they witnessed orca hunting whales in the freezing north.
Orca around the world are very selective with what they eat. Icelandic orca tend to hunt herring during the summer, while Mediterranean orca have been observed hunting Bluefin tuna! Dive to the south pole and they pursue seals, while some east Pacific orca have a taste for on salmon. In New Zealand a couple of killer whales were even filmed hunting stingray!
Like other dolphins, orca often search for their prey over great distances. While on deck watch this week I was wondering where the common and striped dolphins had gone, as during spring the Biscay was bursting with them! However, as the Pont Aven glided past Brittany on Tuesday, the water erupted with breaching dolphins, giving loads of time for dozing passengers to catch a glimpse. Several passengers claimed the sightings as their first EVER of dolphin, which is always a total bonus!
And now to my top sighting of the week: a Cuvier’s beak whale! It was my FIRST EVER SIGHTING OF ONE and I could have hugged the passenger who pointed out the silhouettes calving through the sea ahead. Deck 10 was full of folks who soon learned about the Cuvier’s phenomenal physiology (they can dive for 2 hours 43 minutes!) and the tell-tale features that help us ID the whales.
Thank you to all the dedicated whale watchers and ORCA survey team this week, it has been exceptional!
ORCA Wildlife Officer - The Bay of Biscay