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.
Wednesday 9th July 2008
Location: Loch Aline, Morvern Peninsula.
Position: 56 32.66 N, 05 46.09 W
Distance covered: 57.3 nm
It was on the good ship Silurian
The crew they cried in delirium
There’s porpoise here
There’s porpoise there
But Steve cries it’s the same one here again
While under stress doing last nights blog
There’s one event we failed to log
A minke we thought we may defend
As it approached the pointy end
But with relief it slipped underneath
While we returned up the sound
The crew expected minke’s to abound
Though seal and porpoise they were seen
The sea it was completely clean
Of any whale not matter where we sail
The ladies jigged on the Silurian deck
Those big waves they said “What the heck?”
The Tiller Girls did a merry dance
As to the mooring we did advance
While Glen played a tune under another full moon
The day it ended in Loch Aline
Noot a minke ne’er were seen
People gathered round the chilli pot
And ravenously consumed the lot
Exchanging tales of once seen whales.
Robin & Karrie
Tuesday 8th July 2008
Location: Craighouse, Isle of Jura.
Position: 55 49.99 N, 05 56.49 W
Distance covered: 38.9 nm
Cormac has put us under duress while we write this blog as the pub is waiting for us all. Saw lots of seals, porpoises and minkes. Oh yes, and lots of birds. More tomorrow.
Robin The Forcedly Brief, Karrie and Sally
Monday 7th July 2008
Location: Loch Craignish
Position: 56 08.12 N, 05 33.33 W
Distance covered: 65.8 nm
Today involved a long haul, starting out the day leaving Loch Moidart with a great deal of ground to cover. We headed west, sailing under the bitterly cold north winds, rounding Ardnamurchan Point, going wind over tide…which is always fun…marking down the many shearwaters that seemed to be enjoying the turbulent winds.
As we rounded the point, we headed down the Sound of Mull where the weather calmed. We didn’t get to see a great deal, but heard a lot of the seal scarers next to some of the fish farms. We exited the sound and moved south through the Firth of Lorn, before Skipper navigated us through the troublesome tides in the Sound of Luing and round the Dorus Mor.
We have anchored in Loch Craignish for the evening and have just enjoyed Steve’s wonderful creation: ‘Pork Gounoff’…or ‘Strogalash’ depending on who you ask. After the long day travelling, we hope tomorrow brings calm seas and lots of animals.
Sunday 6th July 2008
Location: Loch Moidart
Position: 56 47.3 N, 05 50.1 W
Distance covered: 43.8 nm
As Cormac was unable to venture up to the crows nest to escape the creel calling he suspended it for the day. The volunteers were sad and morale was low because we could not count creel pots, but with stiff upper lip and tremble they sallied forth.
Due to the superior performance of this team of volunteers, the day started gentle with wonderful weather and beautiful scenery, which continued throughout the day.
Further down the river, Glen the Grey seal was just preparing for his lunch and had selected a juicy salmon for his feast. With great effort he manages to catch his salmon and was in the process of subduing his prey when the Silurian loomed into sight. Believing the Glen was snarled in a fishermen’s net and in mortal danger of losing his life. The gallant team stormed forth to rescue him. In the ensuing maelstrom Sid salmon managed to slip away and Glen posed grumpily for pictures with anger in his heart. The team sped onward.
All admired Karrie and Sally’s grace on the foredeck as they elegantly performed their spotting duties in heavier seas. With soup in on hand and bread in the other, prepared by first mate Steve from Sue’s (Steve’s stepmother) recipe, our two crew showed wonderful prowess and multi tasking as they drunk, ate and spotted cetacean.
In the interest of entente cordiale, this day became Scottish Food Day which included Porridge, potato and leek soup, drop scones, tablet, haggis, neeps and tatties. In the spirit of the occasion the American crew toasted the food with a wee dram, or as the Americans would say the nectar of the gods.
At the end of the day we anchored in Loch Moidart. The volunteers attempted to storm the castle but were repelled by the midges. On returning to the boat they found Steve flat out on the deck with his head down a hole. The day ended with the girls finishing the chores and reading a book, while the boys continued their incessant repair and upkeep of our floating hotel. Boys will be boys.
As the sun sets we can hear the seals singing.
Eldon, Robin and Karrie
Saturday 5th July 2008
Location: Kyle of Lochalsh
Position: 57 16.7 N, 05 43.1 W
Distance covered: 49.3 nm
We left Kyle of Lochalsh this morning and headed out underneath the Skye Bridge into the Inner Sound, which separates the mainland from the Isle of Raasay. We were greeted by calm seas and sunny skies. We ventured north up the sound and were greeted by the sight porpoises and seals and of many, MANY creels. The next few hours were spent calling out the locations of these creels as shouts and cries (made with varying levels of enthusiasm) of “CREEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLL” rung out. Cormac headed up the crows nest to take advantage of the calm conditions and the relative silence above the heads of the hard-working, creel-spotting volunteers. He wasn’t up there long before a couple more harbour porpoises and seals were spotted and then sighted a large minke whale looming off in the distance in amongst the creel-buoys. He called out to alert the crew, but the whale, though large and over 2 km away, was clearly spooked by the volume of ‘creel-cries’ coming from Silurian and decided to dive and not come back again. Cormac’s credibility as a scientist and spotter were called into question, but soon enough he spotted another minke frolicking off in the distance and this time other crew-members made the sighting too to verify his manic observations. Sadly that was the last large cetacean sighting of the day.
We headed up to the north end of Rona before heading east then south, returning to Kyle of Lochalsh, not before another 300 creels were spotted and their positions logged. We finished the evening with a fantastic chicken curry prepared by Steve and a walk off to the Skye Bridge to enjoy the sunset. Tomorrow we head south and hope more sightings and less creels await us…
Friday 4th July 2008
Location: Kyle of Lochalsh
Position: 57 16.7 N, 05 43.1 W
Distance covered: 49 nm
We left Mallaig a little before 10 AM and went immediately on effort. Just outside the harbour at the mouth of the Sound of Sleat, we were greeted by extremely calm seas and sunny weather. After sighting a few harbour porpoises, a call from Cormac rang out: “minke whale at 90 degrees.” Our skipper headed towards the whale, but then two more individuals were seen in different quadrants. We spent the better part of the morning trying to get close to one of the three animals, and, indeed, we were near enough to hear them breathe on a few occasions.
At length, we left the whales and porpoises and motored north on the Sound of Sleat. The scenery was extraordinary on both the Skye and the mainland sides. We passed
the Clan MacDonald Castle on the Sleat Peninsula. Susan spotted another minke whale at some distance, but we were never able to approach it very closely.
We steamed to Kyle of Lochalsh and tied up to a wharf on which was an enormous pile of timber waiting to be loaded on a ship. We dined at Gateway Restaurant to celebrate American Independence Day, in recognition of the humiliating defeat of the British and the first step in the collapse of the Satanic British Empire, which to the best of our knowledge now only consists of a small island on the prime meridian and a tiny Caribbean island, Barbados.
Several of us imbibed in a wee nip at the Lolchalsh Hotel before returning to Silurian, where we found our skipper waiting up for us like an anxious parent wanting to see his charges safe at home before he retired for the night.
Susan and Dennis Carlyle
Thursday 3rd July 2008
Position: 57 00.5 N, 05 49.5 W
Distance covered: 53.7 nm
Third day of the of this intrepid adventure and what more could we look forward after covering shark infested waters of the Sound of Mull and visiting the friendly people of the Isle of Muck. We all woke with a tight knot in our stomachs with anticipation …. or was it the thought of a lack of porridge?? Never fear Captain Glen was there, coming to the rescue. He cooked his mutinous crew their daily measure of the magic potion…. Porridge.
Settled with our daily rations and the sun peaking shyly behind the clouds we edged our nose out of the sheltered bay and out to sea. SEA? What had happened overnight it had turned to glass as far as the eye could see.
The glassy sea encouraged Karrie to be the first team member to venture into the crows nest. This was on the pretext that her burger for lunch had been placed there. Once hauled to the top she was left marooned while Steve was fighting the fire he had caused in the galley.
In the footsteps of both Steve and King Alfred, Cormac decided to create a new recipe of carrot and charcoal cake. Which was enjoyed by all the crew (especially with the addition of Auntie Bessie’s custard)….. yummy!!!
Oh yes; we saw 11 porpoise, 2 basking sharks, a minke whale and 6 seals, I think this is the role we were employed for.
Rafted at the end of the day beside 2 fishing boats; hot showers at the Fishermen’s Mission were promised, but unfortunately it has proved impossible to escape over these boats so we are stranded and smelly.
Current route for tomorrow is plan 35C and rising as quick as the barometer.
Karrie, Robin and Sally.
Wednesday 2nd July 2008
Location: Gallachan, Isle of Muck
Position: 56 50.6 N, 06 14.7 W
Distance covered: 17.5 nm
We were awakened by the sound of the Captain making porridge. We left the anchorage under an unpromising, leaden sky. Cormac, having trained us in distance estimation, set us to work at the mast and the science station. The idea was that, as we sighted a marine mammal or shark, we would holler out its location and distance from the boat. On our journey to Muck, the sea condition worsened, and Cormac mercifully relieved us of duty. No mammals were sighted except for a few seals (?gray and/or common) in the harbour on the Isle of Muck. Birds sighted included Common Murres, Gannets, Greater and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls and Manx Shearwaters, and a Gray Heron.
While our captain, Glen, and First Mate Steve attempted a diagnosis of our windlass malfunction, we Volunteers went for a walk on the Isle of Muck. We walked for about 40 minutes to the south side of the island and then returned. By that time,
Captain Glen gathered us together for delivery of the BAD NEWS. The windlass was unrepairable. For the rest of the trip we will spend the night either at a mooring ball or at a pier, and we will have to alter our itinerary accordingly. The Volunteers received this news with grace and equanimity.
Following a delectable dinner of West 38th Street pasta, prepared by Carrie and Robin, the crew and volunteers gathered for light conversation.
Tuesday 1st July 2008
Location: Loch na Droma Buidhe
Position: 56 39.416’ N, 005 55.335’ W
Distance covered: 21 nm
At the end of the day we are sitting in the flicker of sunshine. However the prelude to the day was rain striking the hatch cover, well all parts of the day really and all parts of the boat.
Team set out to get the last vital elixirs of life from the local shop, wine, whiskey, chocolate and oh yes wine and another bottle of scotch (whiskey)…….
There we stood on the burning deck with water all around having the wet safety briefing followed by an even wetter survey briefing. The captain shouted ‘All ashore that’s going ashore’ we raced to the plank to escape but he had already set sail and the gap was widening. So the Silurian set sail into the West or it could have been East, North or South, we could not see there was so much weather.
The fool hardy crew sat on deck spotting cetaceans which numbered 5 porpoises and a seal. Under sail in gale force winds additional under water sea creatures were sighted through the cabin windows by the fortunate cabin crew while the crew on deck were washed across the deck as the boat keeled over both port and starboard, with the sail clipping the surf.
The cold mist came down in torrential sheets lashing across the decks and ricocheting off the crew member’s oilskins. Creeping into crews crevices while lashed to the deck. When all was lost…..the sun came out, the wind died done and we all sat eating a hearty meal
Karrie, Eldon & Robin Volunteers