Jun07

Welcome to the Bay of Biscay

Categories // Bay of Biscay

Welcome to the Bay of Biscay

My first two weeks on the Pont-Aven have been pretty incredible; so many amazing passengers and wonderful sightings!

I joined the ship in Plymouth, and within a couple of hours, I was already doing my first deck watch! It was great talking to passengers about everything related to whales and dolphins and answering everyone’s questions and I felt very spoilt that we were treated to views of a group of Risso’s dolphins not far from the ship!

We were then once again spoiled on deck watch the following morning! Coming into Cork we saw around 70 basking sharks - we couldn’t believe what we were seeing; the sea was just awash with them! Basking sharks can grow to around 12m and we watched the gentle giants filter-feeding right at the surface next to the ship. They’re the second-largest fish in the world (after the whale shark) and can be identified as you can generally not only see their dorsal fin, but also the tip of their tail fin too - the double fins are quite a distinctive sight, and you can sometimes see the tip of their nose poking out of the water as they feed as well. Because they’re fish and not cetaceans, another tip for identifying them is that you can see their tail moving side to side, as opposed to the up-and-down undulations that you see in cetacean tail flukes!

We all stood in awe watching these amazing creatures feeding, and then when we left port about 5 hours later, there were only about 18 of them still feeding in the harbour, the rest had disappeared into the blue… 

We’re very lucky to have a lot of dolphin companions accompanying us on our trips, too, as they love to play in the waves created by the ship and Saturday evening was no exception. We were joined by a very determined family out on Deck 10 ready to hunker down and wait for some sightings, and their determination was soon rewarded with three pods of common dolphins playing next to the ship! The little boy told his mum that his lifelong dream of seeing dolphins had been fulfilled and it was so special to see how excited he was. He set about pacing up and down the side of the deck, tooting a little wooden whistle he’d brought to ‘call the dolphins back’ - it must’ve worked as it wasn’t long before another group of dolphins joined us to play! I headed off to bed not long after, very satisfied after another magical evening, and feeling very fortunate to have been able to see that young boy’s dream come true - hopefully the start of a long and successful cetacean-spotting journey for him!

In amongst plenty of sightings of our dolphin friends, we spotted a Cuvier’s beaked whale over the deep-sea canyons off the coast of Santander. When first sighted, it was quite far off from the ship, but it very obligingly decided to swim right along next to us, and we all had amazing views of its wee white face - some people call it the goose-beaked whale because of the resemblance, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s a compliment or an insult, but I think they’re really quite endearing and cute! As Joanna mentioned in the last blog, they’re the deepest diving mammal in the world, and I honestly felt a bit starstruck being so close!

I’ve had so many more adventures and met so many more wonderful people in just these two short weeks, and I can’t wait to see what else the season brings!

Ocean Conservationist Lauran (Bay of Biscay)