19 August 2018: English Channel
The ORCA survey team met at the Brittany Ferries Terminal. Our embarkation was slightly later than expected and by the time we departed Plymouth we were surrounded by the night sky.
Our crossing was calm, the ‘fog horn’ however showed an apprence which, unfortunately, could only mean one thing – poor visibility; not a good sign for our marine mammal survey, though absolutely necessary to warn other marine traffic of our presence.
20 August 2018: Roscoff
After disembarkation we walked into town hoping the fog would clear as the morning temperature increased.
Over the weekend, the town had celebrated the Fête de l'Oignon de Roscoff. This annual festival celebrates the famous ‘pink’ onion which is a speciality in Roscoff. In the 1800s the onions were sold by ‘Onion Johnnies’ who crossed the channel every August to sell their surplus crop to the British to support their families back home. They wore the black beret and striped Breton shirt and had tresses of onions strung on their shoulders and over their bicycles.
The fog was here to stay so instead of exploring the beach and rockpools we strolled around the beautiful town and visited Church of Notre Dame de Croaz-Batz. This 16th century church has a decorative renaissance style bell tower which dominates the skyline and unique carvings of ships and a large sundial embellish the outside.
As we started to make our way back to the ferry terminal the weather seemed to improve.
20 August 2018: English Channel Sea State 2 - 3 with poor visibility
As we set sail, we hoped the fog had completely disappeared. We commenced our survey with feeding gannets in the distance and voilà we had our first sighting of common dolphins followed immediately by a lone bottlenose dolphin – what a fantastic start.
Our sea state throughout our crossing ranged between 2 – 3 however, the visibility remained our biggest challenge! The fog rolled in and out, one minute we could see a couple of meters in front of the bow and the next we could see between 8 – 15 km. This was not going to deter the team….
Next, silver flashes in the water ahead. We concluded it was most likely to be a school of tuna fish. Within minutes, a pod of common dolphins, another lone bottlenose dolphin and more common dolphins – fabulous.
Although our visibility was variable, the ORCA team had a total of 10 sightings consisting of:
Common Dolphins 18
Bottlenose Dolphins 2 (includes 1 incidental sighting)
Unidentified Dolphin 3
Tuna Fish – silver flashes
Massive thanks as always to Brittany Ferries, the captain and crew of the Armorique.
Jayne Dobner (Team Leader), Emily Davies, Julie Watson, Vickie Toland