On board Silurian
Silurian is HWDTs research and
Most weeks April through October she is either monitoring
the waters of the west coast of Scotland for whales, dolphins, and
porpoises, or serving as a floating classroom for one of the many Argyll
island primary and secondary schools.
log below to find out what Silurian and her crew have been up to each
week and all about the whales, dolphins and porpoises they spot!
To find out about the latest marine life sightings spotted elsewhere,
If you would like to send the crew an e-mail with your questions click here.
Click here to view the Silurian Log archive.
Day 10 - 15 June 2005
The last day dawned calm and sunny, surrounded by the beautiful lush green hills of Loch Moidart. The survey route took us initially north to the Sound of Arasaig and past some spectacular scenery and a group of burly looking kayakers. We then headed back south around Ardnamurchan Point and into the mirror-calm of the Sound of Mull. Where, while I cooked up endless reams of crepes, the volunteers leaped around the deck sighting porpoise after porpoise and Marjolaine heard their characteristic buzzes from the hydrophone (sound slowed down so that we can hear them!). As we headed back into Tobermory, sadly mourning the end of the trip – we were greeted by our first minke whales of the trip! FINALLY! So the species list was finally complete…
We motored into Tobermory, the survey over, to finish the trip with haggis, neaps & tatties (a traditional Scottish fare) and a few drinks in the local trip (for me a nice wee dram of local whisky). And so I would just like to thank the volunteers for all the hard work they put in – the trip began with a lot of sea-sickness, and few sightings… and ended with volunteers immune to whatever the sea threw at them, lots of sightings and lots of data for me to analyse (Marjolaine & I will be kept busy with all the acoustic porpoise data we collected after finally getting it working).
Now off to our respective homes and a well deserved nice long hot bath… well except for Marcus who is staying on for the next trip!
;o) Clare, Science PI
The volunteers (from left) - Prash, Ale, Robert, Carla & Sheh... THANK YOU!!!!!
Day 9 - 14 June 2005
What a beautiful day…under the rain!!!
The wake up was gorgeous, beautiful bay, sunny, without wind and warm enough to take the breakfast outside (only for the people wake up on time!!). A little bit of exercise as usual (40m of chain) and go!!!
On the way we stopped the boat in front of Lunga Island and landed to observe the puffins nesting. An hour of beauty…magic… First we walked in the middle of little birds (ringed plover, wren…), after we climbed to the top and into the world of marine birds - full of shags flying and nesting, seagulls, fulmars, razorbills and of course puffins. They were amazing, flying from the nest to the sea, coming back with a beak full of fishes, looking at the camera…
But we had to continue the survey and so back to the boat. One hour was to short but enough to charge our bodies with peace & unforgettable images. Still some exercise (rib to put on the boat +20m of chain)…
The rain started from this time to continue all the day.
Despite this, the survey was successful, 1 Bottlenose dolphin, 4 Porpoises, 2 Basking shark and perhaps 1 Minke whale!!! Only the skipper saw a ‘big splash’ once, so hard to say with precision what this was [this was the supposed minke whale]. But it was enough to prolong the trip to try to see it. This prolongation was useful because it was during this time we saw the 2 basking shark and a porpoise.
To finish the day, we anchored in the beautiful loch Moidart and before going to bed, Marcus added some dreams and images to our minds with a presentation about Humback Whales in Australia…
This was really a beautiful day!!!!!
Marjolaine, assistant science PI
puffin with a mouthful of sandeels - Lunga island
Day 8 - 13 June 2005
Brrrrr….Day eight…and the coldest, windiest day so far! However we were all in good spirits after seeing the bottlenosed dolphin yesterday who put on quite a show for us! We left the Isle of Coll in the morning around ten thirty…but not before dragging up 70m of chain to get the anchor out! Relatively warmed up after that, we set off for Ulva. Three common dolphins showed up soon after we left, and we were thrilled that we could add them to the list of species we have seen on this trip.
As we moved further away from the Isle of Coll, the winds were so strong and the waves so huge, visibility was not optimal. However three porpoises were spotted and as usual, plenty of jellyfish! We are now anchored close to Ulva, and after a huge meal we are feeling very content and ready for yet another day of sailing. Although we have been saying this practically everyday, I will say it yet again- ‘I hope we see some whales tomorrow!’
Sheh, Earthwatch volunteer
...trying to spot dolphins in strong winds!
Day 7 - 12 June 2005
Our quest to see the (unusually not so) elusive Hebridean cetaceans, is taking us to some of the unique islands of the Inner Hebrides. One morning we wake up to the sound of myriad of birds from a RSBP reserve, another, like today, the Silurian affords us views of an enormous circular harbour with a castle looking out on it. We anchored alongside a little ship sporting a pirate flag, and an impressively gorgeous 65ft gaff cutter, shame we did not see it with the sails fully hoisted, but skipper drew us a picture of how glorious it would look. Before setting our course for Coll, we went ashore for a tour of Kinloch Castle. Part museum and part hostel, it is a curious piece of history. In typical Empire fashion, it houses a collection of furniture and artefacts from faraway places, with a strong predilection for all things Japanese, and the usual array of trophy stuffed animals that any respectable Victorian castle owner would exhibit on all available space on the already busy walls. It also boasts one of two extant orchestrion of three that were ever made. Some of us would like to come back and stay as Rum is also a nature reserve, perfect to spend a few days walking admiring the landscape and meeting the wildlife. Inspired by our beautiful neighbour for the night, the gaff cutter, we spread our wings to take us gently gliding out of Loch Scresort into the open sea. Here, as the swell become bolder, the gliding turned to surfing under an increasingly terse azure sky, adorned on the lower horizon by a crown of loosely woven clouds. Our soundtrack was the hissing of the wind, which for a while sounded like a busy rookery during breeding season.
As we took turns surveying the sea, the waves made a perfect Hokusai picture and as we entered Gunna Sound, the Tiree resident bottlenose dolphin gracefully raced us for half an hour to our sheer delight (see photo). This was a life-saver since I was unable to deliver my morning promise to the science-persony-thingy to spot a Minke for her. The hydrophones today recorded a high number of porpoises in the area we surveyed, making this a very successful working day. They also picked up a vociferous shrimp party [which make a very loud ‘popcorn’ type sound] but alas I missed it as I was on effort when we passed them by. The last hour or so was an exhilarating sailing experience, as we advanced into the strong wind heeled over as far as we could go without toppling over.
The place we will call home for the night is Loch Eartharna, by the village of Arinagour, Island of Coll. Our on board 5-star restaurant is cooking up the usual storm and apparently we are in for a good night of Scottish pubbing later on, perfect ending for a day that started at the Sound of Shoeglenifty. The Silurians bid you good night and will be with you tomorrow to share with you another day in the remote wilderness of the Hebridean waters.
Carla, Earthwatch volunteer
bottlenose dolphin in Tiree Passage
herring gull photographed by Marcus
Day 6 - 11 June 2005
Our sixth day of survey began with a relaxing interlude in Tobermory while our wonderful PI (Clare) and ship’s crew battled with the various computers aboard. Eventually, with enough up and running to proceed we sailed West and North into turbulent waters.
While short, it proved to be an excellent day of spotting. Our eagle-eyed captain (Graham) made the first sighting with a trio of magnificent Basking Sharks. We coasted the boat alongside while the photographers aboard were hanging over the sides and snapping shot after shot. The sharks were truly a lovely sight to behold and I feel privileged to have seen them.
The spotting conditions worsened after that, but it was certainly exciting standing in the bow as walls of water repeatedly crashed over them. Despite the high waves though, it didn’t stop Carla from picking out a Porpoise amongst them.
Damp but happy, we sailed into the port at Rum for a quiet evening in the shadow of a Victorian castle.
Robert, Earthwatch volunteer
Travelling through the Sound of Iona
Basking shark dorsal fin