101 Unidentified Whales

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101 Unidentified Whales

Charlotte has completed her placement on the Cap Finistère, here she reflects on an amazing 4 weeks in the Bay of Biscay

This is it. My last day and my very last crossing, leading us from Bilbao to Portsmouth. Tomorrow I am going to leave the Cap Finistère and the Bay of Biscay, that have become my home over the last four weeks.

So many things have become familiar over this time, but never fully predictable. In the Bay storms are followed by perfectly flat seas and super Saturdays are followed by days of no sightings at all.  Only this week, after a relatively calm crossing to Spain, patience finally payed off when we were suddenly surprised by a group of three Cuvier’s beaked whales breaching multiple times close to the ship! They seemed to be putting on a show for Beth, a girl who had been bravely waiting in the howling wind on deck with us to spot some whales and dolphins. She had been out on deck with her father during two otherwise mostly eventless deck watches, when most of the other passengers had long given up! 

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As I am writing this, Louise opened Logger and showed me a map with some records. At first sight, I believed them to be the data recorded over the whole season. Surprisingly, all the sightings shown were the very animals Louise, Emma and I have recorded over the four weeks I have been on board! An incredible amount of 1539 animals passing by the Cap Finistère during our deck watches alone, and many more that have been spotted by eager passengers! These numbers alone make it crystal clear what a great month it has been!

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Yet, for me it was so much more than just the mere numbers that have made this time unforgettable – the encounters with both wildlife and all the lovely passengers are what really made me happy and speechless, occasionally even leaving me in tears of joy. Encounters such as seeing a fin whale breach for the first time in my life, being overwhelmed by a super pod of common dolphins and so many more amazing memories.

One month ago, when Laura handed over the blue Wildlife Officer high viz vest and binoculars to me, she gave me the advice to cherish every moment on board, as time would pass much faster than expected. Now, four weeks later I want to give the same advice to Lilly the new placement, who will be taking over tomorrow. Enjoy every moment, I am sure the Bay of Biscay will have plenty of surprises for your time!

For myself the time on board has just infected me with an even greater whale fever and I cannot wait to return for more surveys to see many more of the beautiful and fascinating whales and dolphins!


ORCA Wildlife Officer Placement – The Bay of Biscay

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