It may be half way through the season on board the Cap Finistère but the amazing sightings just keep on coming...
Sadly, Trina has now left us to watch whales in Iceland and we were so sad to see her leave, but we are very excited to welcome the first of our Wildlife Officer Placement on board next week.
The whales are truly out in full force now, we are seeing the amazing huge blows of our fin whales frequently, with 18 individuals spotted over the week, and many more distant tall whale blows. On Thursday we must have passed over some really rich feeding areas, as Louise and I were simultaneously shouting ‘WHALE’ whilst pointing in completely different directions, as so many of these animals were at the surface so close together! On the same day, we had one incredible encounter where Louise and I spotted a small pod of dolphins, before quickly realising that these dolphins were actually bow riding a huge fin whale as it surfaced between them, an incredible interaction we had not seen from the ship before!
Not only did we have incredible encounters with the fin whales, but also we have been lucky enough to see many Cuvier’s beaked whales. On Saturday, we saw a group of six individuals who we spent about 10 minutes watching as they surfaced, to the amazement of all the passengers out on deck. These animals truly amaze us even with the little knowledge we actually have on them, we still feel so lucky to witness them at the surface between the amazing deep dives for which we know them so well. Within the group, there were a few older males; their bodies were almost completely white and glowing in the bright sun. We also got a good look at a lone male Cuvier’s beaked whale on Tuesday so close to the ship that we could clearly see his white head breaking the surface, followed by his huge scarred body. A little later, we saw a group of around five more of these impressive animals.
The male Cuvier’s beaked whales get their scars from two teeth that protrude from the lower jaw of only the males of the species during territorial battles. The fact that males only have two teeth and females have a complete lack of teeth does not make them poor predators; they are still very effective at hunting, instead capturing prey by ‘suction feeding’ where they quickly expand their mouths in order to suck in squid or fish.
We have grown used to the presence of common dolphins as they so regularly keep us company out on deck, leaping out towards the ship. This week, after we had left Santander and were talking to passengers we had an even more beautiful encounter with them. Through the window, we saw dolphins jumping out in the orange glow of the setting sun! We then went to the outside deck to continue watching these dolphins and even pointed out a fin whale to those on the deck, just before the light began to fade over the Bay.
Along with these incredible encounters, this week we have spotted many more species including a minke whale, pilot whales, striped dolphins and bottlenose dolphins. As well as the incredible diversity of cetaceans we have seen this week, we were also lucky enough to spot blue sharks and many sunfish swimming by the side of the ship.
We are looking forward to the arrival of the first of our Wildlife Officer Placement as Laura joins us on board next week, and I hope the amazing sightings continue for her first week on the Cap Finistère with Louise!
ORCA Wildlife Officer – The Bay of Biscay