Survey Reports

2019-07-27 - Penzance-St Marys

Survey details

Survey route: Penzance-St Marys

Company: Isles of Scilly Travel

Sea region: Celtic Seas

Survey start date: 2019-07-27

Number of nights: Day sailing

Weather conditions: Overcast with a cool breeze, sea state mainly 3 with a moderate swell 1-2m


On Saturdays during the school holidays, the Scillonian III ferry makes two trips instead of the usual one. The survey team were booked to go on the early ferry and return on the late ferry meaning that we met up at 05:30 instead of the usual 08:15.


The team boarded the Scillonian III and took the opportunity for a short re-cap on survey protocols over coffee.


After the Scillonian had cleared Penzance Harbour we started to survey. The sky was overcast with showers clearly visible in the distance. Once we had cleared Land’s End the two metre swell set in and with the wind directly in our faces the weather seemed cold for the end of July.


The first half of the crossing was quiet with no sightings. Then 2 common dolphins were recorded racing in to the bow. This was followed by two more sightings of single common dolphin in fairly quick succession. Shortly after there was a sighting of a Minke whale as it surfaced once just 30 metres from the starboard bow. It was seen by one of the team and two of the ship’s crew but unfortunately not by the rest of the survey team. The only other sighting on the outward watch was an incidental sighting of 2 common dolphins, seen by the crew and the recorder, towards the stern of the ship.


As we approached the Isles of Scilly the clouds started to break and we disembarked in warm sunshine. Due to the double sailing we then had an extended stay of around seven hours so we decided to take this opportunity to explore one of the other islands and booked ourselves on one of the tripper boats to Tresco. We had plenty of time to explore the Tresco in the glorious weather and to sit and relax in the sun before returning to St Mary’s in time for a meal and a rest on the beach.


The Scillonian was a little late returning to St Mary’s but made a quick turnaround. Conditions for the return leg were great: it was mainly sunny with a following breeze and excellent visibility. The first sighting was of 5 common dolphins followed by one Ocean sunfish and then 3 more common dolphins. As we cruised along the Cornish coast, we were thinking that the Minke whale would be the best sighting of the trip when “Sighting” was called and a large animal was spotted at the surface. Fortunately, one of the survey team had just returned from Costa Rica where they had been working with a turtle charity and identified it straight away as a Leatherback turtle before it raised its head. There was just one more sighting of an unidentified small cetacean before we arrived at Penzance.


There were surprisingly few birds seen with only small numbers of the usual seabirds apart from one group of feeding Gannets.


Many thanks to Captain Peter and his crew for their assistance and for making us extremely welcome.


Total Sightings:   8 sightings consisting of 16 individual animals plus 1 incidental sighting.


Common Dolphins x 12 (5 sightings)


Minke Whale x 1


Ocean Sunfish x 1


Leatherback Turtle x 1


Unidentified Small Cetacean x 1


Bird Species Seen: 


Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern.

Survey team members

Dave Williams, Ian Boreham, Stephanie Lowder.