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,
Date: Thursday 10th May 2007
Position: 55° 40’.520N 005° 43’.830W
Distance Travelled: 49 NM
We left Loch Sween this morning under overcast skies while the wind was picking up, and headed out into a fresh choppy sea. The forecasts had been uninspiring but after the first transects of the Sound of Jura, the weather unexpectedly brightened up and remained sunny for the rest of the day.
The first porpoises we detected on the hydrophone this morning were in the same spot as those we detected at the mouth of Loch Sween last night. Perhaps they’d come back to make sure we left! There were several visual sightings during the day, but there was obviously something more going on under the surface as there were gannets diving for fish all around us and the hydrophone was going crazy…
There were no fresh bouts of seasickness, so the pills (and wristbands!) are obviously helping, so we will see what the next few days bring! All volunteers took full advantage of the hot showers available on Gigha, and now smell much fresher! The bacon butties and the scones/biscuits were much appreciated. Mat is still evolving his scone recipe, and mooring was delayed so that they were undisturbed until they were ready.
The mooring is very picturesque, with a flat calm and a splendid glowing pink sunset. We’re sharing our anchorage with several seals (who pop up to say hello) and a whole array of seabirds, including a herring gull with a taste for macaroni cheese and bright pink exfoliating gloves (don’t ask!).
We’re looking forward to the weather forecast tomorrow so we can plan our next expedition. We’ll be waking up our neighbours with the genny in the morning too!
The Earthwatch volunteers…
Date: Wednesday 9th May 2007
Anchorage: Fairy Isles, Loch Sween
Position: 56° 01’.770N 005° 35’.600W
Distance Travelled: 58 NM
We left Loch Spelve this morning in subdued sunshine, the water was a flat calm and we could see the fish jumping for the flies. We moved from the Firth of Lorn into the Sound of Luing and onwards into the torrid waters of the Corryvrekan (which was really cool and was Paul and Christian’s favourite part of the day). It then threw us back out the way we came in, into a welcoming party of seals and porpoises. Luckily Susie was on data entry, because the new volunteers would be all fingers and thumbs (Russell uses the “hunt and peck” technique of typing). We passed through the entrance to the Sound of Jura in some choppy swell, which meant that Katie didn’t feel so swell!
During the subsequent transects of the glassy calm Sound of Jura, near the entrance to Loch Sween, it got a bit busy again for Susie (on data logging) as we were joined by a posse of posing porpoises. Susie broke a nail! She jumped up on deck to demand whether we were counting the same porpoises twice. Genevieve fell into an apoplexy of excitement at the sight of two (yes – count them!) Great Northern Divers!
On the way up Loch Sween, Mat was slaving away in the galley in his frilly pinny to produce a super batch of scones for us all. But we still think he needs lots more practice to perfect his baking technique. Every day this week would be just fine. The volunteers also got to visit the Fairy Isles (no fairies were spotted though!) before dinner. We returned to another very satisfying dinner. There was no food left. We have yet to reach the limit of how much can be eaten in the evenings! But we hear a gannet can eat a 55cm ling, so we shall give that a go…
Russell’s highlight of the day was the discovery that there is real coffee aboard and that we have extra-large foul weather gear on board the boat (he has been feeling a little restricted…). All the team are hoping for flat calm so that we can go around Islay (although some are hoping more than others). We’re all going to go to bed tonight with the pitter-patter of rain on the hatches, but we don’t care because we’ll all sleep well because we’ve been working so hard…
The Earthwatch volunteers.
Date: Tuesday 8th May 2007
Anchorage: Loch Spelve, Isle of Mull
Position: 56° 24’.530N 005° 44’.390W
Distance Travelled: 34 NM
As I write, our new volunteers for the second Earthwatch trip of 2007 are sitting around the table looking somewhat shell-shocked. Is it
a) the result of my recently-finished talk on seabird identification
b) the product of a long day at sea in the blustery wind and May sunshine or
c) the news from Katie that she thinks the toilet may be blocked?
Good news, Paul’s just used the facilities and reports that’s it’s all functioning just fine. Widespread relief, not least from crew, whose responsibility it is to rectify any sanitation issues.
We’ve had a lovely day on our first day of surveying. The forecast didn’t look great, and last night the sky used up a year’s worth of rain. But come this morning, it was (mostly) fine, and after the usual training in monitoring and boat protocols, we set off down the Sound of Mull. Volunteers Russell, Katie, Christian (from Sweden) and Paul quickly learnt the routine, and we had a great day of sunshine with a couple of porpoises thrown in for good measure. Mat cooked a brilliant dinner, only surpassed in skill by his navigation into Loch Spelve. Good day had by all.
Susie, Science Officer
This week Silurian visited Coll and Tiree for school visits. On Monday and Tuesday the education team worked with Arinagour Primary School on Coll. This included all 19 students who came aboard the boat for marine workshops. The team were assisted by skipper Glen Murray, first mate Mat, Director Sir Maxwell Macleod and David. Wednesday and Thursday saw about 40 students from Tiree Primary aboard for more action packed sessions. Finally, on Friday, Tiree High Schools S2 students completed the final workshop of the week. Travelling home we were lucky to watch a minke whale feeding between Ardnamurchan lighthouse and Mull. What a great end to a very successful week. Thanks to everyone on board for their help and the fantastic students from Coll and Tiree who participated. The education team.