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: Friday 8th June, 2007
Anchorage: Monach Islands
Position: 57° 31’.140N 007° 38’.740W
Distance Travelled: 54 NM
Another early wake up at seven to glorious sun shine but sadly the minkes have not greeted us at breakfast-time. We set off towards the Sound of Barra and surveyed up the coast. As we approached Eriskay we sighted two minke whales the second of which was soon forgotten (poor minke) as we sighted our first bottlenose dolphins. We turned into the Sound and spent an exciting hour being escorted by our new companions. Altogether seven dolphins spotted including two playful juveniles who delighted us by leaping clear of the water and shamelessly showing their bellies.
We turned towards our objective, the Monarch Islands, and spent the rest of the day transecting up to the Islands seeing minke whales and ever increasing amounts of grey seals, much to Christine’s (on data entry duty) exasperation. Little did we know that the Monarch Islands are home to a colony of grey seals…
After reaching our anchorage we visited the lighthouse which involved turning the tender into a sand buggy. However we were an hour late back for tea and a very hungry Mat.
After a lovely tea which was still tasty despite our tardiness, we set off to the ruins of the last settlers here and were helpfully guided by the friendly seals to a mooring point. Science officer Susie added to her collection of b(u?)oys which she picks up on beaches and are tied to the back of the boat on her travels around the Western Isles.
Susie not happy AT ALL with the team for already getting blasé about cetaceans galore and daily demanding new species. Some people don’t know how lucky they are!
James and team
Date: Thursday 7th June, 2007
Anchorage: Isle of Sandray
Position: 56° 53’.200N 007° 29’.800W
Distance Travelled: 53 NM
Up at seven, to the accompaniment of whinging bed-lovers prematurely wrenched from their sleep. A look out of the window indicated ‘localised coastal fog patches’ were located just about over sailing vessel Silurian. A quick team chat resulted in the decision to wait and see if the fog lifted whilst alighting on Berneray and walking up the track to Barra Head lighthouse to marvel at the sheer cliffs veiled in drifting mists, circled by thousands of razorbills, puffins and fulmars which nest there. Back on the boat, we began surveying, zig-zagging out to sea south of Berneray (and briefly, into international waters). We’d never surveyed here before (nor, for that matter has the Admiralty much), so we had no idea what we’d see. The answer was: basking sharks, minke whales, Risso’s dolphins, white-beaked dolphins and common dolphins. And some seals. The common dolphins gave a particularly impressive cabaret performance, launching themselves out of the water as they cannoned over to bowride the boat. We anchored on the island of Sandray, with a lovely walk ashore followed by some leisurely minke whale spotting from the back of the boat over a cup of tea. Very civilised.
Susie, Science Officer (team too dolphined-out to blog)
Date: Wednesday 6th June, 2007
Anchorage: Isle of Pabbay
Position: 56° 51’.070N 007° 33’.690W
Distance Travelled: 51 NM
Early start, and another glorious day; weather paradisiacal once again. We set off from Gunna sound, across the Sea of the Hebrides, and came across a gigantic group of common dolphins – adults, juveniles and calves – estimated at around 200 animals – with circling gannets overhead. We stayed with them for quite some distance – were they following us or were we following them? Were they enjoying our company as much as we were enjoying theirs? We had the pleasure of listening to their whistles and clicks from the bow of the boat, on the hydrophone, and even from inside the forepeak cabin. It was really interesting to see their individual markings such as tooth rakes. That experience was going to be a hard one to beat…We carried on our journey towards Barra Head, where we came across a giant beast from the past – another basking shark – probably 500m long at the very least, in seas full of plankton. Then another one. A mere 400m long, which gave itself a fright by swimming really close to the boat (probably too busy contemplating plankton), and gave us a lovely flash of its gills. Mat and James spotted a minke whale, but it did not surface again after that; the liars! We continued our voyage past the Isle of Mingulay,(this I cannot spell). We kept our bird counters ‘happy’ by passing the colonies around Berneray and Mingulay, Douglas and Gwilym heroically counting guillemots, razorbills, puffins and fulmars in their hundreds. Then round the coast of Pabbay, spotting yet another basking shark Promptly after this came a minke whale up from the shadowy depths below, probably 10 meters from our port side. We heard its blow. We smelt its fishy breath. We anchored off Pabbay and went ashore to the beautiful beach, returning to magic bangers and mash for tea.We are now discussing tomorrow’s journey, and everyone has forgotten that Gwilym is attempting to compose a blog by himself. How lonely he feels…I think I’ll go now.
Gwilym and team
Date: Tuesday 5th June, 2007
Anchorage: Gunna Sound
Position: 56° 33’.680N 006° 42’.780W
Distance Travelled: 30 NM
We woke to a spectacular day, with a cracking forecast. Volunteers aboard this trip are Christine, Douglas, Bill, Clare, Gwilym and James. All keen as mustard. Unfortunately the vegetable delivery van had different ideas. Having waited around for our veg for the trip to appear, the van finally arrived…but with no vegetables. Disaster! A vitamin-free fortnight loomed! Scurvy beckoned! Worse things don’t happen at sea! Crew took a quick dash to the Co-op, bought out the fruit and veg section (sorry to everyone on Mull for buying out the shop), and we set sail.
Started with some nice porpoise sightings around Ardmore. Volunteers convinced one was a dolphin. Kill-joy Science Officer disabused them rapidly. Another porpoise, apparently. We was robbed.
Surveyed on round Cairns of Coll and down outside coast towards Tiree. In spite of fantastic survey conditions, however, there were no animals to be seen. But no clouds in the sky either.
Once we’d anchored in the gorgeous Gunna Sound, Christine and Douglas set about making supper, watched over by a nearby basking shark (well known for the their fondness for shepherd’s pie and parsnips). Once we’d eaten (mmmm…delicious) we went out in the tender, and found our sharky friend again. Team sure it was Great White. Science Officer announced it was a basking. Foiled again! Science Officer – 2; Volunteers – 0. Carried on our tender ride around the island, admiring the local wildlife (sheep, eider duck and grey seals). As the huge red sun set over the Outer Hebrides, and finally sunk into the sea, we were lucky enough to see the ‘green flash’ as it hit the water (in homage, of course, to Pirates of the Caribbean III).
The day’s most hazardous moment, however, was the team’s skirmish with skipper Dave’s terrible Irish joke. Gwilym thought it was quite funny, actually. But he’s Welsh…onwards and upwards – we’re off to the Outer Hebrides tomorrow.
The Earthwatch Team.