2018-04-15 - Plymouth-Santander-Portsmouth

Survey details

Survey route: Plymouth-Santander-Portsmouth

Company: Brittany Ferries

Sea region: English Channel, Bay of Biscay

Survey start date: 2018-04-15

Number of nights: 2

Sightings map

Survey sightings

Cetacean sightings: N/A

Bird sightings: N/A

Other animals: N/A

15 April 2018: English Channel – Sea state 4 poor to fair visibility.

The weather forecast was looking promising with an expected high-pressure front moving in.  Our first watch presented us with challenging conditions, patchy showers, spells of glare and long waves, many white caps and heavy swell made spotting mammals more difficult. Being the first Biscay survey of the season, we had limited daylight hours and we ended our first watch with no sighting.

16 April 2018: Biscay - Sea state 3 good visibility.

After a fairly bumpy night’s sleep, we awoke keen to get on watch. The waves and swell had started to settle, we had noticeable less frequent white caps and we were further down in the Bay than what we were expecting and our initial thought was we had missed the continental shelf, which is always a good area for dolphins.  We needn’t have worried, within 5 minutes of being on survey we had our first sighting of common dolphins shortly followed by unidentified whale blows. We had regular sightings of small pods of common dolphins throughout the morning and we arrived in Santander on schedule.  

16 April 2018: Biscay return – Sea state 3 – 2 good visibility.

We departed Santander a little later than scheduled. During our time ashore, the waves had subsided although the swell remained moderate – heavy. As soon as we started our survey, we spotted a dead whale, it looked like a Cuvier’s beaked whale, although we could not be sure – photographs have been submitted and we are hopeful that we can have the identification confirmed. Within a few minutes, we had our first live sighting of a Cuvier’s beaked whale, followed by common and stripped dolphins. After an hour or so, we had another sighting of a Cuvier’s beaked whale followed by regular sightings of small pods of Common and patterned dolphins. As the daylight faded, we said goodbye to the Bay and went to dinner.

17 April 2018: English Channel return - Sea state 4 - 6 good - poor visibility.

We awoke refreshed and ready to start our watch. Overnight the waves had increased along with the swell. The large waves, frequent white caps and spray made spotting very challenging. Shortly after being on watch, we had 2 common dolphins right in front of the bow. Common dolphins are attracted to the Pont- Aven, the challenging sea conditions meant we did not see them approach the ship! Unfortunately, the sea conditions remained challenging, patchy haze/mist reduced our visibility and we had to end our watch earlier than expected and no further sightings were seen. Due to adverse weather conditions, we arrived in Portsmouth later than scheduled.

Common Dolphins x185
Cuvier’s beaked whale x2
Medium Cetacean x1
Patterned Dolphins x4
Striped Dolphin x10
Unidentified Dolphin x13
Unidentified Whales x2
Dead whale x1

Massive thanks as always to Brittany Ferries and the captain and crew of the Pont-Aven.

Survey team members

Jayne Dobner, Christopher Wallbank, Fiona West, Andy Osborb