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,
Friday 1st July
Position at Anchor 56º 22.022N 005º 47.414E
Distance Travelled 40 NM
Weather Overcast becoming sunny
Left Tobermory and motored down the Sound of Mull to Oban to collect one of our volunteers. On route we encountered a number of Harbour Porpoises visually and also acoustically with some great detections on our acoustic monitoring system.
When approaching Oban the wind picked up which allowed us to have a nice sail into Oban harbour.
On leaving Oban we sailed south down the sound of Kerrera and then west into Loch Spelvie on the south east of the Isle of Mull where dropped the hook and had a relaxing evening, which included a great dinner, cooked by myself.
Saturday 2nd July
Position at Anchor 56º 01.81N 005º 39.254E
Distance Travelled 48 NM
Weather Overcast fair, wind F7 reducing then increasing
The day started as usual with breakfast of fruit juice, cereals, tea and coffee at anchor. The Loch was teaming with huge numbers of jellyfish (mostly Moon jellies, but also a few Lion's Mane jellies too). Soon after we left Loch Spelve and headed out across the Firth of Lorne, we started our cetacean observations in earnest. As well as 2 visual observers on deck at any one time, we also took it in turns to monitor the hydrophone output and input the sighting data onto the pc. Two harbour porpoises were spotted swimming quite close to the boat. Winds were fresh, 25knots from the SE, so we hoisted some sails and continued our observations as we travelled WSW along the Ross of Mull. Duncan, our skipper, cooked up some wicked egg and bacon rolls for elevenses.
Around midday we turned and headed SE and passed through a narrow sea passage "the grey dog" between the islands of Lunga and Scarba where there were tidal eddies and overfalls. After lunch, we had a quick run ashore in the dingy to visit an ancient monastery on the island of Eileach an Naoimh.
A strengthening wind accompanied by deteriorating sea conditions forced us to terminate our observations early. Duncan chose a beautifully quiet and sheltered anchorage in Carsaig Bay for our overnight stop. We anchored in sunshine at 18:30 and then enjoyed a delicious home-galley-cooked supper whilst being watched by a couple of deer from the shore.
Seabirds seen today include: Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins, Gannets, Shags & Cormorants, various Gulls (mostly Herring & Lesser Black-backed gulls) and a Storm petrel.
Sunday 3rd July
Position at Anchor 56º 01.78N 005º 35.53E
Distance Travelled 41 NM
Weather Overcast becoming quite sunny wind strong reducing then increasing
Began the day with some strong wind which meant no visual survey, however even though we had rough conditions and a large swell our eagle eyed observer Sarah spotted a couple of porpoises.
Although putting an end to the visual survey the strong wind did give the opportunity for a cracking sail down the sound with everyone getting involved in the sailing and driving the boat.
During the afternoon the wind dropped and Lawrence said wouldn’t it be cool if a whale came up right now…….. 2 seconds later WHAAAALE, which turned out to be 3 Minke's actively feeding which then became a bit of a feeding frenzy with lots of birds getting involved.
Anchored in a beautiful spot at the Fairy Isles.
Monday 4th July (Lawrence's birthday)
Position at Anchor 55º 37 64N 06º 11 29W
Distance Travelled 56 NM
At the start of day 5 we were blessed with calm waters and sunshine. We headed away from our anchorage in the secluded Fairy Isles at the head of Loch Sween. Once out we continued our transects down the Sound of Jura with almost immediate success. The first sighting by Carolyn and Sally being a passing grey seal, then the second which was two feeding minke whales. After watching the whales and discovering some more as well as quite a few porpoises we left the feeding frenzy to continue down the Sound.
We finished our transects to the bottom of Islay and almost out to Ireland before retiring to Port Ellen for the night. Whilst only having a couple more porpoise sightings as the sea conditions worsened later in the day. Once in Islay we gorged ourselves on Duncan's great cooking before I was jumped upon by a surprise 19th birthday cake. This led to a few birthday drinks, then to bed for another early morning on the Silurian.
Tuesday 5th July
Position at Anchor 55º 58 83N 05º 52 36W
Distance Travelled 66 nm
Weather Overcast, wind force 3
We were up at the usual time and went ashore in Port Ellen for provisions then slipped the lines at 0930. It was overcast but not windy enough to sail so we motored south towards the Rhinns of Islay. Went to the most southwesterly point of our survey areas. There was quite a swell coming in and it was especially rough going around the Rhinns of Islay where the seabed suddenly went from 100m to 23m causing a patch of very confused water on the surface. The whales and dolphins weren't there today, though we looked for them all day.
Motored up the coast of Jura with the Paps swathed in dark grey forbidding clouds. Turned up into Loch Tarbert and saw numerous grey seals hauled out on the banks and swimming in the water. Nosed our way through a narrow passage into Cumhann Beag and followed the leading marks into a beautiful glacier-cut loch where we found 4m of water to anchor in. James excelled himself with a vegetarian risotto and we discussed plans for tomorrow then had an early night as it had been a full and tiring day.
Wednesday 6th July
Position at Anchor 56º 17 49N 06º 23 08W
Distance Travelled 62 nm
Weather Sunny with some cloud, wind NW 4-5
All up early as we had to catch the tide to get out of Cumhann Beag. The sun had just risen and the hills and rocks were reflected in the loch. We motored westwards down Loch Tarbert then turned north and, still motoring, went around the north side of Colonsay. Then we put up the sails, the yankee, main and mizzen, and sailed southwest towards a waypoint at the very edge of the survey area.
Watchers were posted from 0800 to 1230 but the swells got steadily bigger as we headed out towards the Atlantic. There were plenty of birds, especially manx shearwaters, swooping and diving over the waves but, if there were any cetaceans, we didn't see them in the wild white water. Eventually the dinghy shifted in its cradle and the skipper deemed it too rough to continue visual surveys from the bow so we carried on with the hydrophone only. Carolyn did a heroic effort at making sandwiches in the galley whilst at a 45º angle, pitching and tossing.
We turned northwards again before reaching our waypoint as it really did become too rough, but went out towards the lighthouse before heading for Iona. There we went into the peace and calm of Tinkers Hole and anchored at 1715 surrounded by weathered pink granite.
Went ashore in the dinghy to explore the surrounding hills. Carolyn, Jennifer, Duncan and Lawrence, with James behind on Silurian.
Thursday 7th July
Position at Anchor 56º 29 85N 06º 23 08W
Distance Travelled 50 nm
Weather Drizzle, mist, low cloud, wind SW 2
We left Tinker's Hole and headed out to sea. It was a dull and drizzly day but flat calm so good for whale watching. We got out to a point between Iona and Tiree and turned to head NE back towards Staffa. Duncan cooked up some wondrous bacon sandwiches with the bread rolls Sarah made yesterday. We rounded Staffa with its amazing hexagonal basalt columns and of course Fingal's Cave. A boatload of tourists had just landed on the island, so we didn't attempt to.
Carried on towards Ardmeanach (known as 'The Wilderness'). Genevieve said she thought there was a cetacean in the distance. We motored towards it and James confirmed that it was a minke whale. We drifted gently towards a 'hurry' of seabirds and saw that there were two minke whales feeding. One was very small and at first we thought it may be a dolphin, but it was a young minke. The other was a juvenile, not an adult. We watched them for about an hour during which time they surfaced several times right beside 'Silurian'. We could see the inside of the young whale's mouth and the white underside of its chin. At one point James in the crow's nest could see the larger whale about to surface right under the bow so everyone got a really close look at its double blow-hole and glistening black back. It was a special time.
Finally the excitement abated and we headed out into the mist. Watched for whales but didn't see any more on the trip. Got to Lunga in the Treshnish Isles and it was still misty when we anchored in a sheltered spot. Had Duncan's excellent sausage casserole and then scones cooked by Jennifer and James. Duncan cut his finger whilst whipping the cream but apart from that it was a great day!