The Marine Mammal Surveyors met at Portsmouth Ferry Terminal early in the morning of Friday 21st September, enthusiastic to commence the return day-survey from Portsmouth to Caen. For two surveyors, it was their first ever survey, which was especially exciting! The weather did pose some concern amongst the group as the survey was taking place at the tail-end of Storm Ali and strong winds were predicted to continue throughout the day. However, everyone remained positive and pragmatic and we all agreed that we would give it a go and do the best we could! We spent a bit of time before boarding discussing and recapping on survey techniques, so everyone felt confident and prepared.
We boarded the Mont St Michel and were soon invited up to the bridge to begin our first transect survey of the day. We were greeted by the crew, set up our survey equipment and got started. As we sailed out of the Solent, the sea was rough but the swell was surprisingly small. However, this changed rapidly as we rounded the southern side of the Isle of Wight; both the sea state and the swell increased suddenly, and we were faced with extremely difficult survey conditions. We persevered, but after a while it was clear that surveying was not possible, so we made the decision to leave the bridge. Back down in the passenger area, we spent a while recovering as well as dedicating some more time to discussing the survey techniques and identification skills.
As we approached Caen, the conditions improved slightly, and we headed out on to deck for some fresh air and some surveying practice. Once in Port, we disembarked and had a pleasant lunch in the terminal café during the quick turn-around.
Shortly after, we were back on-board and had resumed our survey up on the bridge for the return transect to Portsmouth. The break had increased our resilience and rejuvenated our enthusiasm, so we were ready to take on the rough sea for round two! The conditions remained very difficult and were worsening with every half hour rotation. The light was also diminishing rapidly. Once again, we carried on the survey for as long as possible, but after a few hours we took the decision to finish the survey as the conditions were too difficult. We thanked the crew and said goodbye before descending back to main area of the ship.
As we neared Portsmouth, we were able to discuss the survey and concluded that the rough conditions had in fact resulted in a positive learning curve for everyone. All the surveyors demonstrated an incredibly positive attitude throughout the entirety of the very difficult survey as well as a continuous professionalism – thank you very much, team, for all your hard-work, enthusiasm and patience!
Thank you very much to the Captain and crew of the Mont St Michel for your hospitality and interest in our work, and to Brittany Ferries for making this survey possible – it is greatly appreciated.
TOTAL CETACEAN SIGHTINGS:
Unfortunately, none, but the difficult sea conditions resulted in a beneficial learning and practicing experience for all the surveyors, and everyone remains eager to continue surveying in the future!
Becci Owen, Jenny Cripps, Bryony Cross, Chris Northwood