Welcome to the first blog of the 2022 Ocean Conservationist season with DFDS King Seaways.
I am so excited that we are finally getting back onboard the King Seaways to tell and show you everything about the wonderful wildlife of the North Sea. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been two years since ORCA was last present on the King Seaways.
Before we go any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Mathilde, and I will be one of two Ocean Conservationists onboard the DFDS King Seaways between March and September. Initially, I was supposed to start this role in 2020, but unfortunately, the 2020 and 2021 seasons were cancelled. Now we are back, and the 2022 season is already starting to look like it is going to be amazing!
I started working with ORCA again in February to prepare for the season in the DFDS office in IJmuiden, the Netherlands. IJmuiden is my hometown, and it was great to be able to walk to the office in just 20 minutes.
But what have I done during the weeks prior to starting on the ship?
I have been reading up about the North Sea, ORCA and of course cetaceans as well as preparing new presentations and workshops to be given in the wildlife centre. I have also been finding and updating everything that had already been prepared for the 2020 season and completing an inventory of equipment and resources. There have been lots of meetings and email exchanges to prepare for the season, and I also completed a mini-cruise to North Shields to meet the DFDS team in the UK. It felt so good to be on a ship and the sea again, seeing gannets fly around the ship and a fulmar soaring over the waves. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any cetaceans, however, it was a good practice in observing the sea and improving my skills in identifying seabirds. Besides the birds, the sunrise really made up for the missing cetaceans.
Besides all this happening behind the scenes, I also wanted to practice using the ORCA OceanWatchers app, which we now use to collect data. So when the weather was amazingly calm and sunny in the Netherlands, I decided to go to the Zuidpier (south pier) in IJmuiden, one of my favourite places to observe marine mammals in the Netherlands. I did see a couple of grey seals and harbour porpoises, these sightings also led me to have conversations with visitors on the pier. These were all about how common these sightings are from here and in the North Sea. I really loved talking to them and enlightening members of the public with knowledge about these amazing and beautiful animals! It made me so excited to start on the ship as well! If you find yourself in IJmuiden for a day and the weather is good, do visit the pier, besides the many coastal birds, you might be lucky enough to see either common seals, grey seals and harbour porpoises.
It has been a little strange to be working for ORCA from the Netherlands and having to do everything digitally, but at the same time, it felt really good to be working and preparing for the season. I really can’t wait to meet passengers onboard, tell them about the amazing marine wildlife of the North Sea and try spotting cetaceans from the King Seaways!
I hope to see you out there and that you are all just as excited as we are to be back sailing between North Shields and IJmuiden!
Ocean Conservationist, North Sea