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.
Friday 9th September
Position at Anchor 56º 24.700N 005º 42.700E
Distance Travelled 30 NM
Weather Overcast with a bit of a breeze (NE)… nice sunny evening
Hello from Loch Spelve on the east coast of Mull! Here we are nestled in sheltered from the cold north-easterly breeze, after a good first days surveying. After a morning training up our new Earthwatch volunteers – Barb (from the US), Elsa (Italian), Denys (Scottish), Kym & Jenny (from Cornwall/Devon)… we set off down the Sound of Mull. Not ideal conditions for spotting wee marine creatures, but our beady-eyed volunteers managed to spot 4 porpoises, 2 common seals and a grey seal. We had quite a few acoustic detections of porpoises too (that keeps me happy!). Once out of the Sound of Mull we managed to put up the sails and sail into sunnier waters and the beautiful quiet of Loch Spelve, where we are now well fed and feeding dozy…
… and here’s to more wee critters and good weather for tomorrow… (and England winning the Ashes…)
;o) Clare (co-PI-sciency-person)
monday 5th september
Position: Och ‘aye, we be anchored for the night in Balephetrish Bay on the island of Tiree, west of Mull, south of Coll and sitting in the Sea of the Hebrides.
Weather: The clouds have set in now, but it’s been fine as a fine thing all day, sunny and bright at times, and hazy at others.
Distance travelled: 46.9 miles (of the nautical nature, you understand)
Wowee wowee, what a day it has been and what a trip, too. To say that I don’t want to go home is an understatement….hmmm, there’s a Sarah-sized space in my cabin locker…maybe I could stow away…
Ah, sorry about that! Forgot I was online and broadcasting to the world and all that jazz-just reminiscing on what a fantastic trip this has been. Sailing the high seas is the way forward methinks, spattered with great company, amazing wildlife and Scottishly wonderful weather, one has it made.
Anyway, despite my deepest and most sincere intentions that this (like all the others) should have been ‘Day of the Whale’ it very quickly turned into ‘Day of the Shark’. No bad thing either, for the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is a handsome beast if ever there was one. Grace, majesty and gigantism coming together in one huge fishy entity, with one hellufa’ mouth. Absolutely awesome. Before we had even pulled off the anchorage we spotted two black fins circling in the bay, noses poking out of the water as they cruised on their early morning plankton foray. A few hundred metres later, in the mirror calm waters we were treated to the spectacular brightness of another’s gaping mouth as it swam alongside, and underneath, the bow of the boat. To see the massive gill slits on the side of its ballooning jowels and look straight into the cavernous mouth was breathtaking; the colour of the mouth a complete contrast to the shiny darkness of its fins above the water. After lots of ‘ooing’ and ‘ahhing’ as we watched these gentle giants, cameras a-snapping wildly for ID shots and albums we headed south east along the coast of Tiree.
A couple of porpoises…a few seals…another couple of our sharkee friends…. And a few more, and more still. By the time we headed out from the Tiree coast we had clocked up a mighty 20 animals, from a wee bairn of not much more than 2 metres to a gargantuan 7 metre beauty. We stopped and observed many of them before heading south to the offshore lighthouse at Skerryvore, some 10 miles from land.
With calm seas and near perfect visibility we hoped for some whaley action, but the cetacean side of things were not so strong, unfortunately. Still fuelled on the wonders of the sharks we’d just left, I for one was excited as we neared the lighthouse as it loomed from the mists. From the crow’s nest I could see some 3 black fins, which soon increased to nine… Nine basking sharks feeding along the tide lines, all within a few hundred metres of each other-it was a sight to behold, especially as they meandered round some unsuspecting gulls, completely unphased by the giants below them. My birds’ eye view from above was definitely the place to be, affording a sense of scale as I peered down on the other crew members with the massive sharks only metres away.
Humbled, awe-struck, amazed and intrigued. That’s how I felt around these somewhat prehistoric creatures, as well as extremely privileged to observe them at such close quarters. Britain’s second largest fish, I believe-bring on the blue shark, I say!
So that was this morning’s entertainment, 39 sharks in all. Not bad, eh?! The afternoon was wiled away under mostly blue skies and sunshine, interrupted by wheeling sea gulls, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets and those pirates of the sea, the great skuas. Lovely as these feathery folk are, I would have loved to spot a whale or trade in a bird for a dolphin instead, especially as the conditions were so great. Juliet did spot a dolphin of some sort but, try as we might, we couldn’t find it again, and it obviously wasn’t interested in playing.
Oh wellies, can’t really complain when we have 40 baskers to our name in a day…. Perfect really, especially when rounded off with some delicious munchies for dinner.
So it’s over and out from the Silurian on our penultimate night on ship.
Log by Sarah
sunday 4th september
Position: Crossapol Bay, 56º 35.1 N 006º 40 W
Distance travelled: nautical miles.
Sunday 4th September
After breakfast we headed out of the bay (through the multicoloured obstacle course) and through Arisaig Sound to the open ocean. Heading towards The Small Isles we went along Rhum and through the Sound of Eigg passing Muck, towards Hawes Bank. Our hope to see some cetaceans out there were dashed, even with excellent sighting conditions there was nothing to be seen. We did see a few porpoises which were photographed by Matt, but apart from that things where a tad thin on the ground.
So with the sun out there was a bit of skin shown, Martin our skipper even got his shorts on (wow ladies). With weather being so nice the crow nest was never empty, even with a few crew members joining the volunteers for the view. Another favourite spot was on the bow sprit where you could watch the water splashing on to the bow, yes ladies and gentlemen it was that beautiful.
During the afternoon we took several transects covering the area between Hawes Bank and the Sound of Gunna. Then with great joy we spotted something in the water, it was so exciting and everyone was watching, it was a basking shark!! After photographing the animal we continued on through Gunna Sound and round to Crossapol bay, where we would be spending the night.
Dinner had a little twist. We had a BBQ on the beach with sand in the salads, rice and bbq treats it added to the atmosphere. Getting to the beach was not as easy as we thought, there where a few waves! Unfortunately Martin managed to be engulfed by a wave on a return visit to the boat to collect the rest of the group.
Everyone seemed a bit restless especially Sarah and Marcus who went for a long run before dinner. The rest of the volunteers gently jogged and walked along, taking in the sunset.
After dinner a beach Olympics began including beach wrestling, wheelbarrow (Chris: “Will you be my wheelbarrow, Martin?”) and running races and don’t forget the army crawl. With our energy levels slightly dampened we sat around the fire and attempted to make up a story: Starlight glows green but starlight sometimes glows with out the north star…… (as you have just read we didn’t get too far!)
So we headed back to the boat with 008 (Marcus) at the helm of the rib, bouncing over the waves in true James Bond stylee.
We left the stars to their celestial business and went to bed content and full.
A belated log by Veronica, Iris, Sarah, Eilidh and Chris