Jun20

An over‘whale’ming week

Categories // Bay of Biscay Wildlife Officer

An over‘whale’ming week

The Pont-Aven is back in the Bay and what a week it's been...

I started my week on the Armorique travelling between Plymouth and Roscoff (after a quick visit to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, which is highly worth it!) for some more channel-crossing action. This week also involved my first birthday at sea, although the whales didn’t seem to get the memo.

The week got off to a quiet start with no sightings, however we had lots of exciting activities for the passengers to make up for it. With World Environment Day on the 5th June and World Ocean Day on the 8th, we created an ocean-themed quiz for the afternoons. The on-board shop kindly provided a reusable water bottle as a prize, and the passengers impressed me with their knowledge ranging from species of whales to ocean plastics and geography.

However, I was in for a big surprise on Sunday, as beautiful calm seas and sunshine meant I got a very close-up sighting of a minke whale (my first one!) and two pods of bottlenose dolphins. Coming into Plymouth I also spotted 12 barrel jellyfish – the sea was filled with them! I messaged AJ to tell him to watch out if he was in the sea, and turned out he was paddle-boarding at the time… Luckily their sting is not usually harmful to humans so he would have been safe (and probably very excited to see so many).

Pont Aven blog 18th June bottlenose and jellyfish

The biggest excitement of the week was having the Pont-Aven come back into action and being able to return to the Bay of Biscay – and what a welcome we received! Waking up early on Monday morning was well worth it - the ocean was flat, the sun was out, and we saw 9 whales in the first few hours, including a few minke whales and lots of fin whales. The best day EVER continued with more whales, a pod of six pilot whales with two calves (also my first ever pilot whale sighting!), around 50 common dolphins scattered throughout the journey and a couple of beaked whales to round it all off. All day we were accompanied by some wonderful people, including an avid whale-watching couple who were on the ship for four days just to see them. While we were eating dinner he saw a fin whale breaching as it lunge-fed on the way out of Santander – sadly we missed this incredible sighting but fingers crossed we might see it in the future.

After some train-related drama I am now finally on the way home (after a delayed ferry, running through the car deck and not being able to find a taxi – thank you to the lovely German couple who helped me with my luggage saying “you help the orcas, so we help you!”). Best of luck for this week guys, hopefully it will be just as fin-tastic!

Carla

ORCA Wildlife Officer - Pont-Aven 

Question of the week: “Do whales ever attack these ships?”
Whales are very calm, docile creatures that are tiny in comparison to our ferries – they are more at risk from ship strike and wouldn’t hurt us!

Fact of the week: Fin whales are the second largest animal in the world, reaching around 27m! They also have asymmetrical colouring on their jaw – the right side is white and the left side is dark grey, which they use to confuse prey when feeding.