The ORCA survey team met at the Brittany Ferries Terminal. As we embarked the daylight was fading and although we would not be able to survey until our return trip, the nice weather provided us with a lovely relaxing crossing.
After a great night’s sleep, we awoke, ready to spend a few hours in Roscoff. We took a leisurely walk into town, ate breakfast and headed to see if we could see any cetaceans from Roscoff’s extended bridge; in its day, the bridge allowed people to get across to the lle de Batz island.
Sadly, walking across to the island is no longer possible as the bridge disappears beneath the turquoise waves although it is lovely to walk along and a great place to see marine life. The temperature had started to rise and the sea-mist was starting to move in, so we headed for the sandy beach for a spot of rock-pooling. The weather was glorious, giving us all that holiday feeling and our time ashore went very quickly. As soon as we embarked, we were ready to start our ORCA survey.
The high pressure had given us beautiful bank holiday weather a great sea-state with a light swell – a surveyors’ dream; well almost… The heat of the day failed to burn off the sea mist! The intense glare on the port-side presented us with challenging light conditions, mixed with rolling sea mist, our visibility ranged from 100 m to 1 km through-out our survey.
We remained focused, within 20 minutes we had our first sighting. A small triangle dorsal fin just breaking the surface. Yes, you guessed it - harbour porpoise two swimming together, then one arched it’s back giving us a clear view of the dark grey to light brown body colouration – what a treat. Harbour porpoise are quite difficult to spot, they are very elusive mammals and generally you may only see the small dorsal fin break the water – what a great start.
Two hours passed, the crew thought they had seen something far into the mist, a few minutes passed and then a Minke whale appeared and excitement started to build. Throughout the next two hours we had bottlenose dolphins, an unidentified dolphin and small pods of common dolphins.
Today, the dolphins were clearly taking advantage of the calm sea and conserving their energy, swimming slowly, just breaking the water with hardly any splashing but they didn't come to the ship to bow-ride.
It was soon time to end our survey. We had just packed our survey equipment away and out of nowhere a big black shape with a bulbus head appeared once and then vanished. Taking into account it’s colour, size and shape of the head we concluded that it was possibly a pilot whale – what an excellent end to our day.
We had a total of 8 sightings, consisting of:
Massive thanks as always to Brittany Ferries, the captain and crew of the Armorique.
Jayne Dobner (Team Leader) Sabin Graf, Gavin Parker, Charlotte Hawkings