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 19th May, 2006
Friday 19th May, 2006
Anchorage: Crag Aig Bay
Position: 56°28.100 N 006°13.100 W
Distance surveyed: 32 nm
After the long and unforgettable journey the previous day, we slept until 8:00 in the morning and found an unexpected sunny day awaiting us. To catch the rare sunshine, we had a quick cereal breakfast before moving on to our daily chores of cleaning and preparation for another day of sailing. Everyone hanged their soaking wet jackets, pants, wellies, towels and etc on rails of the boat transforming it to a ‘sailing hanger’.
Raihan and Percy seemed fully recovered from the sea sick. They looked much better in the morning than the previous day, but surprisingly, Percy couldn’t remember most of the things happened in the previous day.
Duncan and Rob fixed the sails and cleaned up the mess left from the previous day. Then we all had our breakfast of stir-fried egg, bacons and toasts before heading out to the sea. This time, Percy decided to try out Emi’s Japanese medicine for a change.
At noon, we sailed out to the sea around the small islands called Staffa, Dutchman’s Cap, Lunga and Fladda and enjoyed a day of sunshine on deck. The amateur inmates even had a taste of being captain and steering the boat under the guidance of Duncan and Rob from behind.
Although no cetacean was sighted, we saw many sea-birds (even the little cute puffins) and seals. In the evening, we anchored Silurian in Crag aig Bay which is a lovely, quiet, tranquil place with the seals and the little sheep on the close by island being our neighbours for the night.
After a long day, delicious meat pie (or vegetarian pie for Susie) and baked new potato were prepared/served by Duncan, who has by now proven himself a good cook. Our deserts were some Indian sweets which Percy brought all the way from his home town to share with us. They were very sweets but tasty. We then ended the day after drinking our tea and shared our jokes of the day.
Hong Kong SAR
Thursday 18th May, 2006
Thursday 18th May, 2006
Anchorage: Camas Tauth
Position: 56°20.300 N 006°17.300 W
Distance surveyed 38nm
Before starting today’s log, I need to mention the excitement from the previous night occurring after the log was completed.
At 21:00, a look outside of the cabin window led to the question “where’s that boat that was anchored next to us half an hour ago?”. A moment’s panic later and we spotted the boat drifting over to rocks several hundred metres away. The crew and volunteers sprung into action and launched the tender (like a formula 1 pit stop crew) and Duncan and Rob sped to the drifting boat to alert the unsuspecting crew. It transpired that the Irish crew had ‘popped off’ to the pub for a quick one.
This led to a frantic internet search for the pub’s phone number, and contact was made with the Irish crew.
One look at the figures scurrying across the opposite bank confirmed that the crew had already been informed of their plight as we watched four panicking Irishmen negotiate the muddy terrain to reach their tender.
Final outcome was a happy ending; the other crew saved their boat in time; we all relaxed back into our happy group to discuss how pleased we were before retiring to our comfy little bunks, happy and contented at the exciting climax to the day.
That should have been that, but with the wind howling, sleep was difficult, especially for people like me with a slightly nervous disposition. The crew, woken by the wind, had a quick look outside, which gave them some serious concern. There seemed to be yachts drifting about all over the place, seemingly with their anchors still down. One was heading for us, another seemed to be attempting a rescue, taking some damage itself on the rocks in the process. Once again captain Duncan leapt into action like a comic book superhero, with Susie his girl wonder at his side in our tender. The stricken yacht had no power, its anchor chain caught, perhaps round the prop. On deck Rob organised his willing helpers in the driving rain as Mike’s T shirt trebled its weight with water in the first five minutes, while Percy was struggling with cold feet (he reverted to traditional Indian attire – open toe sandals and bare feet), being unprepared for the cold wet Hebridean conditions.
In the face of this emergency Sam and Emi bravely managed to sleep through the whole experience while Raihun crawled out of his pit to discover what was happening. On learning the facts he stated “nothing I can do here” and promptly crawled back to his bunk.
During the following few hours, we managed to get ropes to the unpowered yacht and, pull it in alongside us and secure it. The lifeboat had been called by this point and, unable to free the anchor chain, towed the yacht off to Kerrera (see photos). The bedraggled but heroic Silurian crew retired below decks for a well earned cup of tea before starting the day’s work in earnest. Surely enough excitement for 1 day … but that was just the start of a long, epic journey.
As boats sailed, limped, and were towed out of the bay, captain Duncan decided to take up a safer anchor position away from the rocks in order for technical sciency work to be completed by Susie. Seems simple enough, but not with us lot as crew. Strong wind and current meant moving anchors required complete obedience and 100% effort in order to complete the delicate manoeuvres safely. Like a Roman slave master training his captives to survive in the Colosseum, captain Duncan set about driving, beating, bullying the recruits into something more than the group of incapable individuals; and bonded the team into something more than it had been previously; a team that felt it could achieve anything.
This feeling was short lived as the volunteers were conned into believing they were ready for open sea and at 15:00 we set off on the 7-hour journey from the mainland to the south of Mull. Volunteers topped up with sea sickness tablets handed out by Susie, though Emi chose to opt for Japanese medicine (much better than western rubbish), and would not be swayed by taunts of “These tablets are better!”
Two minutes into the journey and Percy was the first to suggest Emi was right about the medicine thing. In an agitated state, he spent the next four hours hanging over the back of the boat praying to the gods of the sea for respite from the horrific feelings raging through his body.
Raihan fared little better in the strong seas. One little saying from Rob with a beaming smile “Hey, we did actually hit gale force winds for a few minutes there” and that was enough. He rapidly went through the first level of sea sickness whereby he felt that he was dying, to the second stage where he wished he was dead.
As the volunteers started to fall, Emi sat at the back of the boat with the world’s biggest smile on the face which just seemed to say “I told you so”.
Seven hours later, with Raihan and Percy relegated below decks to make the place look a bit tidier, we escaped the mauling of huge waves, belting rain and a boat seeming to sail permanently on a 90 degree angle, up the Sound of Iona into a quiet little bay on the at the south of Mull, with grey stone buildings and striking pink cliffs. It took a set of pliers, lump hammer and chisel to remove Mike and Sam from their respective handrails which they had clung to for grim life throughout the journey, while Emi, benefiting from the superior Japanese medical expertise wandered below, still wearing the ever present smile which seemed to say “Was that it?”.
Dinner this night was a quiet affair due to fatigue and the need to sanitise and sterilise below decks before cooking even began.
Dinner was completed by 23:00 at which point those still standing trudged back to their lonely, damp bunks; which felt like a king size divan fit for royalty.
Roll on tomorrow!!!!
Wednesday 17th May 2006
Wednesday 17th May, 2006
Position: 56°19.200 N 005°35.200 W
Distance surveyed: 8nm
We woke up to the beautiful morning at Oban gazing at the clear sky and the beauty around the port (which was the best thing to do) not sure of the plans for the day since we had the skipper missing till noon on his official assignment. We started our day after our breakfast with teachings on Acoustics by our little lady specialist Susie who did some acoustics herself (quiet an imitation) before we had the privilege of listening to the acoustics of the cetaceans recorded by the research done on them and surely educating ourselves more on God’s beautiful creations living under water. It was an adventurous day with Rob encouraging all of us to reach on top of the boat onto the crow’s nest and it was truly a sense of achievement for all the amateur inmates being on top of Silurian. We had the afternoon free to ourselves to go around the countryside and everybody did steal that opportunity since we had few days of sailing to do on a go. Emi and Sam had the run for the shower at Oban and Joseph taking an extra hour of nap and others filling the wallets before the takeoff. We took off sailing into the beautiful sea doing out sighting assignment and though we did not see any cetaceans but that did not take away the enthusiasm of the inmates as Duncan explained the tide chart and plan of actions for the next day. We ended the day with the sumptuous meal and lots of photo-sessions and laughs too.
Joseph (Percy) George, Team Mate, India.
Monday 15th May 2006
Monday 15th May, 2006 Anchorage Tobermory Position: 56°37.200 N 006°03.700 W The new volunteers arrived on the boat, moored in Tobermory, at 6pm on Monday night. A cosmopolitan, international group, they are Joseph (Percy) from India, Raihan from Bangladesh, Samantha from Hong Kong, Emi from Japan and Mike from…well…Mike’s from Cheshire, England, but who said Cheshire wasn't exotic? We had a good evening settling in, introducing ourselves, getting briefings on the boat, and eating epic quantities of macaroni cheese. The beauty of the area and the shock of having to living on a boat were just starting to sink in… Tuesday 16th May, 2006 Anchorage: Oban Position: 56°24.800 N 005°28.500 W Distance surveyed: 24nm The crew were woken at 6.30am, first by the smell of gas (Duncan, the skipper leapt out of bed, and dashed to the kitchen – was the boat about to go up in flames??!! Nope, the jet-lagged volunteers were just getting used to the idiosyncrasies of the stove). Next came the plaintive voice of Raihan ‘I think the toilet’s blocked!’. Rob, the first mate, with special toilet cleaning duties resolutely pretended to be asleep, but fooled nobody… After breakfast, it was time to start learning all about the science and sailing that would go on over the next ten days. Briefings included what species we’d be seeing and how to recognise them, how to use binoculars (it helps if you take the lens covers off), how to use basic deck gear, and entering visual and acoustic data in the boat’s systems. Then it was off to sea, and our intrepid observers were rewarded with some harbour porpoise sightings, loads of guillemots, and the standard issue west Scotland rain. We steamed down the Sound of Mull to Oban, where we were to tie up for the night. Some work needed to be done on the boat’s acoustic systems, and this was best done with Oban as a base. Another delicious dinner followed, and some chill out/pub time, followed by a lovely early night. Susie, Scientific Officer, UK
Friday 12th May
We awoke to a cold boat which was really strange as the weather had been really warm all week. So we had breakfast and set the boat up ready for the P7's to come aboard came on to the boat to take part in all the marine biological activities.
Then after a fun filled morning we packed up and headed back to Tobermory
Wow we have made it to the end!!!
We have had an amazing time and had lots of fun.
Thank you everyone
Thursday 11th of May
It seems that there is a lag before realizing your body get tired! This morning, it took a bit more time for the crew to wake up: Eilidh had bag eye symptoms, Jacqueline felt down every time as usual but started to hit her head, Joannie kept her pyjama for the first time, Rob needed a shower to open the eyes as well as Duncan who moreover let loose to the discipline! We do not want you to think we stayed lazy the whole day! As soon as the sun kissed our cheeks, we turned out happy, alive and ready to settle the education activities! Lucky us with Mother Nature this week! Joannie and Rob avoid the morning cleaning task by escaping on the tender for jellyfish hunting! Jacqueline on the alarm timing, at 9h55 all the team meet P1 and P2 on the pier as planned.
Skipper Duncan talked about the safety rule on a boat, everybody get tight his/her lifejacket and nine colourful children came on board the Silurian! Their energy was just marvellous, they resourced our team by their excitement when throwing a board the plankton net, their bright eyes looking at tiny living things through the binocular and their politeness with Duncan going around the boat! It is a great gift for us to feel this enjoyment. Jacqueline even felt sad to see the time running too fast. Biscuits and juice just flew by to get to the touch tank and sounds activities. Rob and Joannie had expressive teams touching the load of animals kindly gave by John’s fishing team:”Ah! Oh! Wow! Yuuuuu!!!” yield the P1 and P2 today scientists! Rob is getting really confident and after daily morning studying marine biology books, he gives great field facts about marine organisms! Kids may be impressed by his size, but they had a wonderful time with him! Aside Joannie and Rob tactile activity, Eilidh was singing with the cetaceans and students inside! Lunch bell was rung by Jacqueline, time was flying so fast!
A short break on the upper deck bathing under the sun and P3-4 and 5 came on board. The routine started again with as much colour and expression on the children face! This group surprised Duncan by their sailing knowledge and all they knew about tide and moon! Plankton sampling succeed again! Even if Jacqueline really wanted to slow down the time, there is nothing to do! Running out of it, Eilidh decided that Rob was so wonderful with the touch tank that it was more interesting to enjoy one long activity then running in between two (sounds activity was cancelled). Joannie and Eilidh improve their fishing knowledge by Rob Burney background life! Chief Rob cooked a delicious curry! Already one group left!
Wednesday 10th of May 2006
The third education day already! Time really flies! The program of today would begin at nine o’clock on Bunessans primarily school. Packed with all the education stuff Rob brought us, Joannie, Eilidh, Hilda and Jacqueline to shore where one of the teachers came to collect us, which was very nice! All the small children came to visit us the first hour and they were really smart, naming all the different species of cetaceans and that with an age around of 4-9 years! Eilidh gave a good presentation about whales and dolphins and after that we all were looking forward to go outside and play the dolphin and squid game, all hot and enthusiastic the kids had really fun. The teachers played also the dolphin; blindfolded and disorientated it was really hilarious for the children to see that! After a break the older children came to visit us and after the talk of Eilidh we played the Food chain game which was really fun.
Lunch was heaven! A lot of Prawn was on the menu, which would normally cost a fortune which was given by the local fishermen. The research team, Peter, Laura and Susannah prepared the lovely lunch and we enjoyed it a lot including the flying shells over the table, mostly coming from Joannie’s side who did a serious juice Prawn attack towards Duncan!
P6 would spend the afternoon on the Silurian and they were very polite! Everything went well...Hilda had to leave us but we’ll will see her next week again, she enjoyed it al lot!
The weather was so beautiful that it really was a must to go on shore and do something. So Eilidh and Joannie went for an energetic run, Duncan went for a paddling again and Rob and Jacqueline went for a nice walk trough the beautiful countryside around Bunessan.
Dinner was delicious and Jacqueline with her minimal cooking qualities helped Joannie out with the tasty ratatouille combined with omelette.
Then we had a few guests on the boat namely Gordon’s father Nick and Ben who is the skipper of the Margaret Sinclair. We went all for a drink in the pub of Bunessan. On our way back the Fishermen had arrived again and were really busy to load out the prawns. We headed back to Silurian. We were just wandering around on the boat when we heard some people shouting. So Joannie went outside and it appeared that the fishermen were shouting that they had fish for us we could use during the touch tank activity the next day. So we all headed back for shore again. We were all astonished by the lots of different species of fish they collected and the wonderful explanation of John, one of the fishermen.
All satisfied and well we went back for a good night sleep!
Tuesday 9th May
An early call this morning from the generator at seven a clock and lots of light coming through the windows woke us up. It looked like it was going to be a lovely sunny day. After breakfast everyone headed for the jobs to make the boat nice and tidy and ready for the children! We met all the children and two of the teachers on land, at
Fionnphort. This time we didn’t get wet getting to shore. The children were all full of energy and we, Eilidh, Joannie and Jacqueline took them to the beach to play the food chain game. After lots of running and shouting it was time to load the children in the dingy, going towards the Silurian where Duncan the dolphin apparently tried to escape but clearly failed and as a result was hanging upside down near the side he was supposed to be lying, the wind was strong! We arrived on the boat and it was time for juice and biscuits. We all sat outside on the deck and enjoyed the sun! The education on the boat started with the boat tour by Duncan and exploring the world of plankton lead by Eilidh and Joannie. Rob was helping with everything and Jacqueline was doing the most important job, the timing and the planning.
We then had a nice packed lunch outside on top of the deck of the boat. The loo was the most exciting part of the trip for some of the younger children who where determined to pump it for themselves, no help wanted! Very independent!
Sound and pictures of whales and dolphins was explained by Eilidh and the children got to see the tooth of a sperm whale which caused a lot of wows!...out of the mouths of the children.
Joannie and Rob were in charge of the touch tank and they were really good! They were showing the children different kinds of species which the children touched and learnt about. The detail of the insides coming out of one of the fish was well remarked by one of the children. The time on the boat was finished by artwork. Everyone drew there own favourite animal from the sea. Then it was time to head for shore again so they could catch the ferry at 3 o’clock.
The HWDT team then did an extra good deed, they collected a huge net from the beach which was just waiting to be a ghost net (drifting around).
The net is now settled on the boat waiting to be dumped in the right place, namely a bin! Everyone was a little exhausted. But after a nice cup of tea, Joannie and Duncan went paddling again, Eilidh went for her run and Rob and Jacqueline found the very nice little book shop in Fionnphort and found some great books. Then we met the new education officer Hilda who was staying overnight and was going to monitor the education day tomorrow. We had a lovely meal of pasta and salad, which made us all feel satisfied. The sunset was beautiful and maybe we see some nice stars tonight!
Duncan and Joannie headed out to find some bait for the creel pot for the school visit for the next day, while the rest of us felt all sleepy and hung out on the boat. It turns out that they spend 2h30 having lectures by fisherman, which was great fun! As a result, they came back with a lot of fish and a nice box of excellent prawns given by the entrepreneur Paul! Bioluminescent plankton was the stars of the night!
Monday 8th May
The ladies woke up first! The smell of the homemade bread woke up the rest of the crew, without Gipsy King playing. Duncan was still dreaming! We then had a lovely morning sail to Iona! The wind was getting even warmer, here comes summer! Dressed up as onions, Jacqueline, Eilidh and Joannie were driven by 1st mate Pickering to the pier! No way avoiding the first zip of salty water! We headed for Iona primary school loaded with a suitcase, huge posters and a heavy backpack getting all technological equipment there, so we didn’t really look like tourists. We got slightly lost, and Eilidh would not believe Joannie, that the school was only up the road (as there is only one road on the island it’s not really that hard). We took off the polar bear clothes in this late summer temperature, and then went to meet the school but where faced with the children running away from the school(apparently for lunch).We made it to the school front door and met the three teachers busy building a bird houses! Once the material was set up, we had French introduction by Elisabeth who was really good. The whole class was amazing singing and counting in French! Go class go!
Eilidh did a great work with her whales, dolphins and porpoise lecture. She then kept the attention using Duncan the dolphin involving the pupils touching and naming the body parts! The sun brought us outside for the dolphin and squid game! Children and adults had a lot of fun catching their prey and laughing together. Apart from the technological errors during the talk, the visit to Iona primary school was a great success!
Once more, technology crashed! The mobile phones on the boat didn’t work. So the education trio were stuck on Iona unable to call Duncan and Rob. Do not think ladies will sit down and wait! Eilidh ran on the ferry, she went up to the wheelhouse and use the VHF-radio to tell Duncan that their crew would not swim back to the boat! We made it back to Silurian a bit wet from all the waves but smiling. The Silurian then headed to Fionnphort, Duncan made his “baby” ready to sleep! Teams split for the afternoon activities: Eilidh went running, Jacqueline and Rob went walking along the coast and Joannie and Duncan went kayaking! The pink Iona sunset was amazing in between the islands! The three land lovers where starving and met the kayakers with eager faces, Duncan and Joannie hadn’t realized that they had been away for so long as they had enjoyed their sea time a little too much! The kayakers brain’s were stuck on a coral beach that they had found when exploring! Time for another vegetarian meal: soup, salad and crepe! Duncan is still alive! Maple syrup from Joannie’s father (Quebec) created smiling faces for everyone (soooo good!!!)
Everybody is ready for tomorrow Iona Primary school onboard!! We can’t wait.
Sunday 7th May
On a late Sunday afternoon, the Silurian left Tobermory heading for Bunessan bay. Thanks to Mother Nature, and under a soft and warm wind, skipper Duncan sailed with bared arms assisted by a smiley crew. The education team watched the sea for wildlife sightings. A superb gannet, guillemots, razorbills, shags, kittiwakes and, of course, a lot of gulls where seen.
What a day to climb in the crows nest, even for short legged person. Giving up the stirring the wheel, Joannie did not hesitate to become a pirate! An excitement woke up the relax mood. ”Porpie”, yield Eilidh. Two porpoises breaking the surface starboard with Ardmore point as a background picture. What a great life, Jacqueline and Joannie both had a nap and then sat comfortably on the bowsprit!
A cutie puffin with its funny colours dived into the water in the direction of the Treshnish Islands. Along the way we passed beautiful Staffa. We were in heaven with a beautiful day and amazing scenery that was until we passed Tiree and Coll and then the rain arrived! Rob did not hesitated to change, the man who was previously smartly dressed turned into a waterproof man.
The ladies were in the kitchen preparing Mexican chilli with Tofu. Moon and Sun plate presentation! Humm ... Duncan and Rob will become vegetarians for a week, to Duncan’s disgust! What a challenge!
After Dinner as part of after dinner exercise, Eilidh and Duncan exchanged a smile for fish for the education purpose! Now we are ready to meet the pupils!
by Joannie Ferland