Survey Reports

2018-07-14 - Penzance-St Marys

Survey details

Survey route: Penzance-St Marys

Company: Isles of Scilly Travel

Sea region: Celtic Seas

Survey start date: 2018-07-14

Number of nights: Day sailing


The Team met in Penzance early and boarded Scillonian III for a very busy crossing both  with passengers and also, although we did not yet know it, marine life!

After a coffee and a pain au raisin, we made our way to the bridge where Captain Dave and his crew welcomed us and we commenced surveying as we left Penzance Harbour. Conditions were a little hazy due to the heatwave that we had been experiencing, but the sea state was as close to zero as it could be – wonderful!

Before we knew it we had our first sighting of 7 common dolphins and from then on the sightings did not stop! There were several common dolphin sightings and also grey seals, especially as we approached St Marys. Due to the incredibly calm sea which varied between one and two, the little harbour porpoises could be clearly seen and by the time we reached the islands we had recorded a total of 19 sightings, including a Minke whale which, to the surprise of those on the bridge, surfaced three times and so close to land, that we wondered momentarily at what on earth (or sea) were we seeing!

On arrival at St Marys the day had become very hot and we spent a happy few hours ashore before returning to the Scillonian. We were back on the bridge very promptly and after manoeuvring out of Hugh Town Harbour were able to commence our survey homeward.

A few minutes in and a seal popped up on one side – oh and simultaneously a pair of harbour porpoise popped up on the other side, and within a couple of minutes there were two more single harbour porpoises in different places to record at once and then a common dolphin and another harbour porpoise and another harbour porpoise!  We ended up with 9 sightings in ten minutes which really put our newest surveyor’s recording skills to the test, but she managed admirably and gained a lot of experience! The sightings continued with a mix of harbour porpoise, common dolphins and grey seals, but also a large sunfish sailing along with its fin flip flopping from side to side.

Conditions continued to be good all the way homeward, not quite as flat calm as the outward journey, mostly staying at a sea state two, bordering on three for a short time. Sightings eased off for the last half hour or so, but what a day! We were very pleased as both transits produced so many sightings and our efforts were non-stop, we all gained a valuable experience and went on our various ways with wonderful sights and memories in our heads.

We would like to thank Captain Dave and his enthusiastic crew for making us so welcome and for their assistance with identification and help with remembering the sightings that came so rapidly as to challenge our recording skills to the limit! A marvellous day!


10 x Common dolphin (50 animals)

22 x Harbour porpoise (38 animals)

1 x Small cetacean (1 animal)

1 x Minke whale (1 animal)

7 x Grey seals (7 animals)

1 x Sunfish

1 x incidental sighting of 2 harbour porpoise

Team Members:  Jackie Shaw (TL), Ruth Dand and Vicky Miley

Survey team members

Jackie Shaw (TL) Ruth Dand (Experienced Surveyor) Vicky Miley (Surveyor)