Survey Reports

2018-05-19 - Poole–Cherbourg

Survey details

Survey route: Poole–Cherbourg

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel

Survey start date: 2018-05-19

Number of nights: Day sailing

^ Library photo: harbour porpoise

19 May 2018 (AM): English Channel Sea State 1 – 3 with poor/good visibility  

The ORCA survey team met at the Brittany Ferries terminal, we had a short wait in the departure lounge which enabled the team leader to go through the survey protocol and bridge etiquette.  We were allowed immediate access to the bridge and the captain and his crew gave us a very warm welcome.  Although we were on the bridge before we set sail, we waited until we had cleared the Port of Poole and entered open water before commencing our survey.   

Our weather forecast – clear skies, light wind and temperatures reaching about 18-20 degrees which looked promising for a good sea-state. The sea was nice and calm; however, when the days are hot, the sea mist builds which reduces our visibility.

The sea mist rolled in and out and each time it seemed to increase with intensity!  Within 30 minutes we were in thick fog, the ships fog horn started, warning other ships of our position.  Although we had poor visibility, we decided to continue surveying as this gave our new surveyors more opportunity to record effort data.

Luckily the fog dissipated leaving us with glare and rolling mist; however, we did have a great sea-state with absent swell.  Half way into our crossing we had our first sighting. Due to the light conditions its body was a just a silhouette so we could not get a definite identification however, judging its body size, placement and size of its dorsal fin, it was probably a dolphin. 

An hour later we had our next sighting – a single bottlenose dolphin. We had no further sightings on our outbound trip.

19 May 2018: English Channel Sea State 2 with moderate visibility

After a few hours in Cherbourg we walked back to the ferry terminal eager to board the Barfleur.  The weather had remained hot with light winds and the sea mist/haze was less intense than our outbound trip it remained with us throughout our return journey.  At 17:52 we had a sighting of a single harbour porpoise and less than 10 minutes later another sighting of two harbour porpoise – the excitement on the bridge from our two new surveyors and the crew was amazing. The bright red sun started to set, the light faded quickly and it was time to end our survey. Although no more cetaceans were seen our new surveyors were able to practice data recording, which is a vital part of our research data.

We had a total of 4 sightings, consisting of:

Harbour Porpoise 3

Bottlenose Dolphins 1  

Unidentified Dolphin 1

Massive thanks as always to Brittany Ferries, the captain and crew of the Barfleur for giving the ORCA survey team access to the bridge and for their warm welcome onboard.  

Survey team members

Jayne Dobner (team leader) Chris Piri, Martin and Ben