Jun26

A Whalecome Return!

Categories // Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer

A Whalecome Return!

The Pont-Aven is back returning us along its route to spot the incredible wildlife of the Bay of Biscay! 

After a quick voyage across the English Channel on board the Brittany Ferries Amorique, we joined up with the Pont in Roscoff. As the Amorique arrived a couple of hours before the Pont, we spent our time in Roscoff eagerly watching the ships progress online as it drew closer and closer to our location, the excitement building with every minute. As she rounded the headland and came into sight, I couldn’t help but let out a little cry of exhilaration, knowing that shortly she would be ferrying us across the Bay of Biscay along a route that promised an abundant plethora of different marine mammals and sea life!  

And what a return to glory it was! I could never have asked for a better return to the Bay! At points along our journey we were flooded with huge aggregations of common dolphins, bounding and leaped energetically towards the ship. Intermingled with these large pods we could clearly spot the close cousin of the common dolphin; the striped dolphin, winding weaving and spinning their way through the water, performing dazzling feats of acrobatics alongside the ship! Not only this but we were joined by many calves of both species; like miniature shadows alongside their mothers, they replicated in perfect unison the large leaps and jumps performed by their older counterparts, turning and zigzagging with exact mirrorlike precision. By around 10 o’clock on one of the days we had seen over 250 dolphins and it’s safe to say my fingers were getting a little bit sore just from entering sightings data!

Underwater dolphin

The weeks excitement may have begun with hundreds of dolphin sightings however it definitely did not end there! Throughout the beginning of our journey we regularly spotted the blows of large whales off in the distance; letting us know they were in the area but not willing to give us more than a momentary glimpse. However, after a particularly exhilarating morning where we had several groups of pilot whales join us, slowly swimming a stone’s throw away from the ship, we had a much closer encounter with a large whale! I had just finished wrapping up a presentation on the species we might be able to see on our journey and was heading back up on deck watch accompanied by several passengers when I heard Bex’s very recognisable half scream/half screech of “WHAAAAALE!!!”. And sure enough not 200 metres from the ship, there was a fin whale at the surface, swimming sedately past the starboard side! After having just talked about the 2nd largest animal on the planet, the incredible 27 metre long fin whale, to passengers and then them getting the opportunity to spot the animal up close and personal was a wonderful experience.

As well as seeing the magnificent fin whale, the energetic common dolphin, the acrobatic striped dolphin, and the wonderfully matriarchal pilot whale we were also luckily enough to catch sightings of sei whales and what was most likely the Cuvier’s beaked whale! Diving down to nearly 3000m and holding its breath for 2 hours and 43 minutes, the Cuvier’s beaked whale is the deepest diving marine mammal on the planet! Hopefully we will be seeing a lot more over the coming couple of months!

Until next week, happy spotting!!

AJ

ORCA Wildlife Officer - Bay of Biscay