From Whales to Spain to France to Ireland

Categories // Bay of Biscay

From Whales to Spain to France to Ireland

An extraordinary first 2 weeks on board the Pont Aven for our Wildlife Officer AJ, with exciting new experiences to take home. 

Bonjour, hola, dia dhuit and hello everyone! My name is AJ and I am one of the three extremely lucky Wildlife Officers in the Bay of Biscay who get the pleasure of calling the Pont Aven home for the Wildlife Officer season!

Never could I have ever imagined that time would pass in such a way that it would feel like only yesterday I was eagerly awaiting my time to board the Pont for my first two week stint, but now, alas, it is time to disembark after an incredible start to the season!

Firstly, my hat goes off to all the incredible passengers aboard who braved the, shall we say, ‘slightly’ windy conditions to come out on deck with us and try and spot the incredible wildlife of the Bay of Biscay, the Channel and the Irish Sea! I had no idea that being out on deck watch would lead to conversations with such a varied smorgasbord of different people, from all walks of life. Never, would I have pictured having conversations on the various threats facing cetacean species one moment and the next having a conversation about the intricacies and nuances of the universe and astrophysics!

I have been constantly amazed throughout my time aboard at the sheer abundance of wildlife that we have seen whenever we have set sail from port; when there haven’t been common dolphins playing alongside the ship there have been great skuas, gannets, black backed gulls and guillemots soaring majestically above us. We were even joined by a very unlikely shipmate who came in the form of a very lost looking robin from Plymouth, who has since emigrated and now lives in Spain.

Nearing the end of my second week I was starting to think that the only hint of marine mammals we would see would be the tantalising blows of unknown whales far on the horizon and the playful and energetic common dolphins that seemed to join us at every opportunity. The second Saturday crossing to Cork however changed this completely. As we awoke for an early sunrise deck watch, I was filled with uncertainty; the previous week the crossing from Roscoff to Cork had been highly uneventful with high winds, numerous whitecaps and a large swell making spotting anything a bit of a challenge. As we stepped out onto the deck the sun was just creeping up on the horizon and we were met with the greatest sight a Wildlife Officer can hope for, a flat millpond of a sea and not a cloud in the sky; the perfect conditions for spotting! Within the first half an hour we had spotted basking sharks, harbour porpoises and common dolphins and within the next hour we were able to add three Minke whales to our ever growing list of sightings. Never having seen either a Minke whale or a harbour porpoise before, let alone in perfect conditions, and with a group of enthusiastic and excitable passengers, I was somewhat struggling to contain my excitement!

As the weekend drew to a close and we prepared to leave Plymouth for the final route across the Bay of Biscay, I was determined that we would spot some of the larger whales, just to top of what had already been a fintastic week. My determination paid off as along our route  to Spain we had the amazingly mindblowing experience of seeing fin whales, pods of over fifty common dolphins and even a Minke whale in the English Channel!

I have met some truly wonderful people aboard both staff and passengers and learned so much already, just in my first two weeks, I can’t wait for the rest of the season.

Good luck for next week Rebecca and Carla, I’m sure you’ll see some amazing sights!


ORCA Wildlife Officer - The Bay of Biscay