The minkes are coming

Categories // North Sea

The minkes are coming

As another shift draws to a close, Alex looks back over a week with more calm seas, marine wildlife sightings but also less enjoyable sightings of the plastic kind …

With all the great weather everyone has been having, it’s been great to see passengers coming back on board rocking new tans and even some cool stories of the wildlife they had seen on their travels. At the beginning of my second week on board, on the Newcastle side of the route, a rather slow morning was immediately perked up when we were treated to a pod of breaching white-beaked dolphins in the distance. Numerous splashes drew our attention to them and everyone out on deck managed to see them a breach a few times before passing from view.

We kept a lot of the nice sea conditions through the week as well as sometimes also being accompanied by a thick fog. This can give the North Sea a pretty spooky feeling at times yet we still had frequent sightings of harbour porpoise and minke whales, their dorsal fins slicing through the calm seas in the gloom. On Monday morning the fog was kind enough to push back for a matter of minutes, granting us with another sighting of a minke whale before quickly closing back around the ship again, all within minutes of being out on a deck watch. An awesome birthday present for Emma - an off duty ORCA survey team leader who was on board for her birthday and saw the whale! 

Monday evening proved to be plentiful with calm conditions allowing me to show passengers a couple of sightings of harbour porpoise before I had even started my presentation. When we went outside, after a few more harbour porpoise had popped up around us, I spotted a dark shape launch itself out of the water towards the horizon, landing with a large splash. A breaching minke whale! Everyone outside with me saw it breaching another 5 times, which is pretty special because breaching isn’t a very common behaviour for a minke whale. By the end of the night we had totalled 5 minke whales and 19 harbour porpoise, a very productive evening! One of the best bits about this week is that for a number of passengers it was their very first time seeing whales, a memory that will last for life. How cool is it that they get to do that in their local waters of the North Sea?!

minke breach crop

Although we have had lots of sightings and calm weather, it’s not always perfect out at sea. It seemed that after all the lovely weather I was seeing much more floating marine litter passing by the ship. It’s pretty tragic when people are spotting what they think is wildlife and it turns out to be a piece of plastic, such as a balloon.

Nort Sea week 8 baloons

While these things may seem fun in the moment to have, they don’t simply disappear after using them and regularly end up polluting the environment. There are lots of other alternatives, whether it’s for a celebration or remembrance, that actually help the environment. One of my favourites being planting trees instead of balloon releases. One of the big ways of stopping the problem is simply by spreading awareness of these issues, something us Wildlife Officers have a great platform of doing on board these ferries.

I am passing over to Rose now, find out how she gets on next week!


ORCA Wildlife Officer – North Sea