2019-04-19 - Poole–Cherbourg

Survey details

Survey route: Poole–Cherbourg

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-04-19

Number of nights: Day sailing

On Good Friday the survey team handed in their passports at reception, putting their passes on ready to join the Bridge crew once the Barfleur had left Poole Bay, so we were well past the area around Old Harry Rocks. Where we were informed by the locals about recent sightings of dolphins.

The crew welcomed us on board and presented us with their special ORCA sightings log. The weather conditions were ideal with a sea state of a gentle 3 during most of the voyage with some glare.

We saw some migratory birds along the way, a flurry of swallows, some sand and house martins, a few razorbill and guillemots. A possible Goldfinch and some LBJ’s which may have been Pipits were also seen.

While we had crossed through the shipping lane, cruising closer to the French side, Richard one of the ORCA surveyors, spotted the fin and side of a possible Minke whale which, surfaced typically disappearing within the blink of an eye, observed as an incidental sighting. During the return journey, another incidental sighting of a possible bottlenose dolphin was spotted, again this was on the French side of the shipping lane. Not long after, Ali another one of our surveyors, spotted another possible bottlenose dolphin.This was all very quick spotting due to the movements of these marine mammals.

As we returned we had a beautiful view of the Studland Needles behind the ship as the sun was setting, we passed Old Harry’s Rocks on the Studland Peninsula.

I offer my huge gratitude to the amazing survey team and would also like to extend our thanks on behalf of ORCA to Captain Daniel Roignant and his crew on the outward voyage and to Captain Chauvigne and crew on the return crossing, for the privilege of accommodating our survey team on the Barfleur.

Marine Mammal Seen:

Minke whale (Possible)

Bottlenose dolphins (Possible)

Other birds Seen:

gannet, cormorant, shag, sandwich tern, bonxie, black-backed gull and possible sightings of either a skua or pomarine.

Survey team members

Krystie Hamilton, Alison Couch, Richard Allcorn

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2019-07-19 - Poole–Cherbourg

Survey details

Survey route: Poole–Cherbourg

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-07-19

Number of nights: Day sailing

^ Juvenile Gannet

After an early start and a warm welcome on board the survey team awaited departure from Poole, waiting in the café and being tempted by the smell of French pastries filling the air.


After being escorted up to the Bridge, the team got to work taking up their positions as they had discussed. Coming out of Poole Harbour, cormorants, tern species and black headed gulls were seen. The voyage out into the channel provided a good training opportunity for the newest surveyors amongst the team, who were busy keeping up with the changes in sea state, swell and presence of rain. In fact, a highlight of the trip for a particular survey member was being instructed and thereafter permitted by the crew to turn the knobs on the control panel to initiate the windscreen wipers for a clearer view.

Within the shelter of the bay, the sea state started at a 1 and quickly diminished to a sea state 4 as we headed out. The swell picked up slightly too. However, on the way out of Poole, one of the team spotted a couple of barrel jellyfish, their large barrel-shaped bodies easily distinguishing them from other jellyfish.

Within half an hour of leaving port the visibility was greatly reduced to a close 1km or thereabouts, tantalisingly increasing and decreasing again over the next hour. During our dance with the rain, a skua species was seen (possibly a great skua or bonxie), as well as a flock of little egrets and flock of small waders, expanding our bird list nicely.  

Sea state and visibility improved for a time (sea sate 3 and 10km) but greatly reduced about 45 mins prior to arriving in Cherbourg. On approach into port the visibility improved, and we could finally see France ahead. After leaving the Bridge, the team watched from the port side. The crew went through their docking procedure and we watched the herring gulls foraging and cormorants relaxing on rocks.


Due to a reduced turnaround time, the team had permission to stay onboard the ship in which to get a bite to eat before surveying again. Once back up on the bridge we were initially faced with similar conditions as before, with a sea state 3 presenting itself, but the wind being behind us increased our speed a little. Soon later the swell picked up a fair bit and then the fog came in. It kept closing in so that we were almost unable to continue surveying effectively, but it would then open up again minutes later. After observing a very patchy fog-lingering sea, unfortunately no marine mammals were sighted on this occasion. It was possible that at times, the conditions hindered our detection of them. But as we are always reminded, no sightings is still good data.

Despite our lack of mammals, other species were seen including a shoal of fish below a blanket of seaweed and also a blue jellyfish. Overall, the team enjoyed their experience on board the Barfleur and therefore we would like to thank the captain and his crew for welcoming us on board and showing us their hospitality. We look forward to sailing again soon. Thank you to ORCA also and the rest of the team for their time and dedication, I hope we all meet again soon. 


Cormorant, shag, gannet, little egret, wader species (flock), herring gull, great black backed gull, black headed gull, skua species, tern species, shelduck, Egyptian geese and crow.

Other animals:

  • Barrel jellyfish, blue jellyfish and unidentified shoal of fish

^ Gannet

Survey team members

Ruth Coxon, Moira Gainey, Mark Evans, Sarah Evans

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2019-05-17 - Poole–Cherbourg

Survey details

Survey route: Poole–Cherbourg

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2019-05-17

Number of nights: Day sailing

As the ORCA survey team passed through passport control at Poole, we were stopped by a Border Force Official who wanted to know;
‘Why we were off to Cherbourg?’ 
‘Did we have more than 1000 Euros’?  
‘What do you have in your bags’?

All valid questions, from the official carrying out customs controls at the port. As you can imagine, our answer was quite simple.
‘We are crossing the English Channel to record sightings of whales and dolphins seen on our round trip today’. Oh, and we made the most of this opportunity to explain the work of ORCA and we were allowed on our merry way. Within 30 minutes we had started our survey.

Our sea state fluctuated between 2 - 3 which is more conducive to whale and dolphin surveying. In these conditions, surveyors would be able to see the ‘splashes’ created by dolphins, a ‘plume of mist’ from a Minke whale blow or maybe a ‘small dorsal fin’ breaking the surface, as the elusive harbour porpoise takes a breath. 

Weather conditions also affect our ability to survey and today, our weather was extremely over-cast, low light conditions and reduced visibility due to mist. Whist we diligently recorded our effort and weather data, we were hopeful for a sighting. The only sighting on our outbound leg occurred just after we came off effort and started docking in Cherbourg; a cheeky grey seal popped up at the side of the Barfleur.  

All was not lost, we had our inbound leg to complete and after a very quick stop-off in the terminal at Cherbourg, we were back on board and eager to start the second part of our survey.  

Although our sea state had improved slightly, ranging between 2 - 1; our visibility became more and more challenging. Over-cast, poor light, mist remained with us and for good measure we had rain to contend with! 

Though all was not lost, within 20 minutes, we had a sighting of 2 harbour porpoise and then all went quiet again. No splashes, no plum of mist… then as we approached Poole, we had a quick glimpse of a seal, only seeing its back and rear flippers, meaning we could not identify the species; though based on the area it is likely to be a Grey Seal. Typical, just as we finished the survey; we had a harbour porpoise surfacing near by. The whole team got a split-second view before it disappeared – what a nice end to our survey.

On behalf of ORCA, the survey team, would like to thank the Captain, crew of the Barfleur and staff at Brittiany Ferries for their continued support and allowing the team to conduct the survey.

Cetaceans seen:

3 Harbour porpoise

Marine Mammals Seen:

1 Grey Sea

1 unidentified seal

Birds seen:

Black-headed gull, lesser and great black-back gull, common tern, cormorant, common gull, gannet, shearwater, puffin, swallow and herring gull

Survey team members

Jayne Dobner (Team Leader), Stella Rustamoua, Cath Toogood, Karely Khan

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