Survey Reports

2019-08-17 - Penzance-St Marys

Survey details

Survey route: Penzance-St Marys

Company: Isles of Scilly Travel

Sea region: Celtic Seas

Survey start date: 2019-08-17

Number of nights: Day sailing

Survey sightings

Cetacean sightings: N/A

Bird sightings: N/A

Other animals: N/A

The team met very early outside the Dolphin Pub in Penzance as today was a double trip for the Scillonian crew, being the height of the holiday season. The ferry was busy because, besides the passengers off on their holidays to the islands, there were many day trippers taking advantage of the extended hours to spend at Scilly today due to the early start of the first crossing and late return of the second.

The weather had been very challenging over the past week or so and the team was expecting a rather bumpy ride on the outward journey, however, the sea state in Mounts Bay looked good and we hoped that it might be better than we feared.

After setting off from Penzance we were allowed up on to the bridge where we were greeted by Captain Dave and the crew. Within minutes the sea state and the wind both increased but at least it was dry and although the wind was in our faces, it could have been worse! On the outward trip the sea state varied up to a 5, but the swell was really quite high.

As we departed Penzance we had our first sighting of a bottlenose dolphin, followed quickly by a possible seal, which embarrassingly for the team leader who spotted it was almost certainly a buoy! then another sighting of bottlenose dolphins, so a really great start considering the choppy water.

Conditions continued to be challenging and we had to take care when moving about the deck, holding on tight as we went, however, we managed another three sightings on the outward trip, common dolphins now, although all were just glimpses, mostly as they appeared briefly close to the ship and disappeared under the bows.

As we approached the Islands, the swell started to come at us at an angle and we were now rolling as well as rocking! Some of us felt a little queasy, but we were aware that many of the passengers were having a bad time below! All were glad to get ashore, although the solid ground seemed to still be going up and down!

We spend some pleasant hours ashore exploring. The weather was pleasant with some sun, a bit of cloud and just a short shower, then we boarded for the return trip.This was somewhat delayed and we set off just a little late.  

We took the shorter route home as the tide was in and were able to spot some of the colony of seals in the water close to the Eastern Isles. The sea state was a little better on the return than the outward, but felt a lot better as the wind was behind us, as was the swell. The crew told us that they had seen a Minke whale whilst we were ashore, approximately 3 miles from St Marys and, sure enough, there he was! He surfaced twice and then swam under water very close to the ship and it was possible to see the white flashes on his pectoral fins which helped to confirm what we were seeing. The next hour was quite productive with regular sightings of grey seals, common dolphins and sunfish.

By 7.30 pm there was a lull in the sightings and at changeover at 8.00 pm it was found to be hard to read the figures on the console on the Bridge because of the fading light, so it was decided to come off effort.   Then, of course, the sightings started up again! So, despite reduced visibility we saw common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins (in the same spot as on the outward journey), and the most simply enormous sunfish imaginable!The evening was beautiful with a rosy sunset behind Cornwall which reflected across to the East as well and even a rainbow to add to the effect. Then, as we were docking, a cheeky grey seal was watching us from the other side of the harbour wall – a lovely touch to end our survey.

An interesting, rewarding and enjoyable day and, as ever, we would like to thank Captain Dave and the rest of the crew of Scillonian III for making us welcome on their bridge. We are now all hopefully looking forward to the next time!

15 Sightings:                                                Plus 6 Incidental Sightings:

5 x Common Dolphin (9 animals)                    1 x Minke Whale

1 x Unidentified Dolphin (1 animals)              1 x Bottlenose Dolphin

5 x Grey Seal (13 animals)                            1 x Common Dolphin (3 animals)

2 x Bottlenose Dolphin (3 animals)                1 x Unidentified Dolphin

1 x Minke Whale (1 animal)                            1 x Grey Seal

1 x Sunfish (1 animal                                      1 x Sunfish

Total animals:  28                                       Total Incidental Animals:  8

Birds at Sea:                                                Birds Ashore:

Gannet                                                             Heron

Fulmar                                                             House Sparrow

Great Black backed gull                                   Blackbird

Herring gull                                                     Wood Pigeon

Shag                                                                Collar Dove

Manx shearwater                                             Oyster Catcher

Common Tern                                                    Stonechat


Survey team members

Jackie Shaw, Nicky Simpson and Alan Sumnall