2018-07-20 - Portsmouth-Caen
The team eagerly met at the Portsmouth International Ferry Terminal ready for the survey across the English Channel to the Port of Caen or Port de Caen, the port authority and harbour of the Norman city of Caen in France. The weather for our crossing was expected to be good with the occasional rain shower forecast as we approached the French coastline, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We were keen to begin our survey, and with a quick and efficient check-in by the friendly Brittany Ferries staff, we were on the bus to the MV Mont St Michel.
As we departed the Port of Portsmouth, we passed the historic dockyard and the impressive HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, which is just a phenomenal sight and it certainly dwarfed our ferry! We left the harbour and entered the Solent in sea state 3, dry conditions, scattered clouds and no swell. The helpful reception team organised for the team to go to the bridge and we were warmly welcomed by the bridge crew and invited to begin our survey.
With our survey underway and the ship progressing across the channel, the weather conditions started to deteriorate with a reduction in visibility from fog and mist, which made surveying a little trickier. Despite this we remained hopeful of our first cetacean sighting and whilst we waited, we enjoyed the occasional gannet sweeping across the waves and rafting herring gull.
The first and only cetacean sighting of the survey was as we neared the French coastline when a solitary harbour porpoise broke the surface underneath a circling gannet, 500 metres ahead of the ship on the starboard side. The animal was swimming slowly and surfaced four times before disappearing beneath the waves. What an amazing encounter!
Light rain had joined us shortly before our arrival in Caen and after the ship had berthed, we disembarked to indulge in a delicious lunch at the café in the terminal. It was a quick turnaround and before we knew it we were back on the ship ready to commence our second transect back to Portsmouth in a fluctuating 1-3 sea state. Also, the rain had stopped, which brought improved weather conditions with slight glare on the port side and a perfect early evening at sea.
Even though there were no further cetaceans, we did see fulmar, great black-backed gull and black-headed gull on the return journey and as we could see the chalk cliffs of the Isle of Wight in the distance, we decided to end the survey to allow the crew to prepare for arrival.
As we were packing up the equipment, Captain Cuvillier approached us asking about our survey whilst holding the ID book that had been gifted to the crew by ORCA. Captain Cuvillier showed us the dolphins the crew had been sighting over the past few weeks and they were bottlenose! He regaled us with stories of their sightings and after thanking him for the hospitality and a fond farewell we left the bridge feeling happy and contented after a great day at sea.
We would like to say a massive thank you to Captain Cuvillier and the crew of the Mont St Michel for making us feel so welcome and for their hospitality, and to Brittany Ferries for their continued support of ORCA.
Marine Mammals Seen:
Harbour Porpoise x 1
Great Black-backed Gull
Survey team members
Emma Howe-Andrews (Team Leader), Emily Clarke, Jane Jordan, Chantelle Barry