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.
7th and 8th May 2009
Date: Friday 8th May 2009
Anchorage: Fladday Harbour/Garbh Bheirt (Raasey)
Position: 57°38’.726N, 006°01’.316W
Distance travelled: 25.8 N
After another bleary night of stormy anchor watch with lightening, hail and sleet we felt we deserved a large dose of porridge for our breakies. Happy hour was pursued via mop, bucket and polish followed by Lewis’s presentation on Hebridean marine wildlife, e.g. the birds which were very informative. Lunch was a banquet of chilli and garlic delight with a toss of green then we needed to start our voyage which required two anchors being unravelled. It took all of Tim and Lewis’s skill to untwine the anchors with the help of a few hearty shipmates so by 3.00 we were on our way. We passed between Longay and Crowlin Islands making for the strait of Caol- Mor, hail peppered the first watch and reduced visibility to about 3 miles but by the time we reached the entrance of the Loch of Sligachan the weather had picked up and we saw a beautiful double rainbow upon which, our pot of gold appeared in the form of a dolphin, our first big fin. The bottlenose stayed with the boat, bow riding for at least ten minutes and then peeled off as the paparazzi cameras drove it away. We then headed for safe haven at Fladday with Tim carefully guiding us in for a safe anchorage. A quick sortie of Raasay with magnificent sundrenched views across Fladder to Skye as we bopped around in the heather. Dinner was awaiting our return, a sumptuous sausage banquet with a toast to our first fin. We reviewed the day and checked dolphin ID and anticipated another good day for tomorrow.
Date: Thursday 7th May 2009
Position: 57°20’.653N, 005°38’.417W
Distance travelled: -NM
After a night of force 10 gales, thunder bolts and lightning very very frightening indeed! Many a nail file was drawn before breakfast. Skipper had been preparing drop scones and bacon in the galley which went down a treat.
Tender transfer was not so tender with a lumpy, bumpy ride to the shore. Andrew lost his glasses and there is now a goggle eyed seal working for Calum's wildlife cruises. Word soon got around of Jan’s arrival on shore and the mishap with the glasses and the dim street soon filled with the townsfolk of Plockton swarming towards Jan’s house with their spare glasses, it made quite a spectacle. Different styles ranging from Dame Edna to Elton John but the frames without the costumes didn’t seem to suit Andy and Kally’s specs saved the day. We all stripped at Jan’s and left a steaming pile of togs, as Jan waved us off with her tea towel from her front door we headed for the hills escorted by Nicky Picky Von Trapp with a rucksack full of goodies for the way. The road was long and there was mountains in our way as we climbed to the top of the Crags. With the help of our extra oxygen masks and cappuccinos we finally made it to the top, party intact. There was no standing ovation as we were almost blown away by the gale force winds and the outstanding beauty across Applecross Hills. The smell of heather mingled gently with the updrafts from Jan’s turbo injected tumble dryer and so we bolted the food and headed back to the comfort of Jan’s fine heighland hame.
Fresh fluffy towels and steaming laundry greeted us with Granny Island in the mix of the haze and the soundtrack of strictly ballroom bellowing down the street. We all took tickets for the showers and while waiting were tended with much love and warming beverages, Russell even managed to have a stand up shave. One by one we came out smelling of Georgiou Armani but soon smelt like a mature Ardbeg with the down draft from Jan’s chimney and a dab of woodbines smoked from birth. Time to kill before stomping to the Plockton Inn we huddled around Jan’s fire like in scenes from Compton McKenzie’s Whisky Galore until we headed off to where food and live music pulled us in, the food was fantastic but the company was better the incredible flingband and guests entertained us until dawn. Upon returning to Granny Islands hame the mix and match between Andrew and Russell’s strides left Russell chaffing and everyone else laughing. The wind picked up on the way back as did the laughter and realization that another long anchor alarm watch awaited everyone on their return. Just like Brigadoon great days like this only happen once in hundred years. Hopefully tomorrow there will be more fins and less flannel.
4th-6th May 2009
Date: Wednesday 6th May 2009
Position: 57°20’.653N, 005°38’.417W
Distance travelled: 41.1NM
Awoke sunshine & blue sky-happy bunnies!! Left Rhum optimistic for lots of big fins, waters turned whispy & lumpy and the rain fell and fell....Lots of seabirds, gannets, bonxies, fulmar, kittiwakes and shearwaters, lots of creel and some seals and porpoises about five metres away. The storm picked up and we had to head for safety up Kyle Rhea sailing at 6-4-6 knots before the “hooley” kicked in. As we came up to Kyle Lochalsh skippy was having fun with up to 45 knot gusts while approaching the bridge we revelled in the wet and wild. Reached Plockton and kissed the water appreciating skippy and Lewis’s anchor tactics as two were required to assure Silurian safety. Went to shore for some of Plocktons finest and a shower at Lewis’s mums who is a local artist www.plocktongallery.co.uk and runs a fantastic b&b. Back to the Silurian for our night watch an hour a piece, listening to the squalls, watching the Gordonstoun boats anchor light, the GPS and hoping the alarm didn’t go off on our watch! Which it did, Kate got double figures in her watch and skippy didn’t get much sleep, extending the safety distance to 0.02m, which was fine until about 3.30 when Jan saw lightening and the alarm sounded and poor old skippy was up again!
Date: Tuesday 5th May 2009
Anchorage: Lock Scresort (Rhum)
Position: 57°00’.700N, 006°15’.600W
Distance travelled: 49.5NM
Today we sailed from Loch Aline up to the Small Isles and then the weather deteriorated a bit on the crossing to Rhum (and it was already not that nice to start with.....). Nevertheless, we saw porpoises and shearwaters even in these rough conditions. Anchored in view of the Castle at Kinloch and enjoyed a leisurely walk to the village. Peaceful. Great Northern Diver and Greylags to be seen. PS. editor apologies for lack of writing due to acclimatisation by the writers; it gets better! Read on.
Date: Monday 4th May 2009
Anchorage: Loch Aline
Position: 56°33’.100N, 005°45’.600W
Distance travelled: 14.1NM
Kick off for the next trip. After everyone is settled on the boat with warm cup of tea or coffee, the introduction begins. Soon everybody realizes that weather predictions for the first few days are going to be horrendously bad and that the planned schedule for the route of the trip is very dependent on the forecast. Some of the volunteers have been on the Silurian in previous years and even before really getting started experiences are shared and the best places to go during the trip are discussed. Twinkles in several people’s eyes when they hear the planning is to go up north and to survey the area north of Skye and maybe even crossing the Minch towards the Outer Hebrides; not only good areas to see animals, but also containing amazing scenery and astonishing views. After the science introduction and the safety briefing we headed off south after leaving Tobermory to anchor in the sheltered Loch Aline. The traditional Scottish Haggis meal was eaten while lots of discussions and laughter set the tone for the next days to come.....
Monday 27th April to Friday 1st May 2009
The Education Team are onboard Silurian for the first education trip of 2009. Find out about marine education workshops onboard the floating classroom below:
Friday 1st May
After indulging in a little beach-combing yesterday, Lewis and Andy had re-stocked the touch tanks with anemones, urchins and much more for the students from Salen Primary School to investigate today. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side today but everyone was wrapped up in warm, waterproof layers. With an otter keeping a close eye on activities throughout the day, students investigated Silurian and learnt about west coast marine life. With one group this morning and a second after lunch, it was a nice end to another successful education trip. A huge thank you to Skipper Glen and First Mate Lewis for their help during the trip, and a special thank you to Andy Simpson who kindly volunteered his time and considerable knowledge and experience to make this week a resounding success. Looking forward to August!
Wednesday 29th April
This morning we were joined on Silurian by two groups from Banavie Primary School. A treasure hunt encouraged students to take a look around the boat, and animal sounds helped everyone to understand how the hydrophone works. The touch tank animals appear to be thriving in their aerated tanks and continued to amaze students this morning.
It was the turn of Lochaber High School this afternoon, and the session began with a photo call with local press. Some of the students had expressed an interest in marine biology as a career and so we took the opportunity to explain in greater detail our job roles within HWDT and the research work that the Trust undertakes. We wish the students the best of luck with their exams. We departed the canal this evening and headed back to Tobermory, taking it in turns to be on watch and enjoying frequent displays of phosphorescence along the way.
Tuesday 28th April
Students from Fort William Primary School boarded Silurian this morning to learn about the work of HWDT and the whales, dolphins and porpoises seen in the Hebrides. Here is a selection of comments from the pupils and staff:
‘Fantastic hands-on learning experience. Thank you.’ Mrs Reid, Fort William Primary School.
‘Great stuff - exactly the right level. Thanks.’ Mrs Brayshaw, Fort William Primary School.
‘My best bit was when I picked up a crab.’ Owen.
‘I really enjoyed when we got to pick up the crabs and the starfish. I loved the treasure hunt.’ Kyle.
‘Today I learnt about what the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust do and how they help the sea animals.’
‘What I liked about today was that we got to see and touch a starfish!’ Fiona.
‘I enjoyed it when Alastair picked up the big crab.’ Iain.
Monday 27th April
The Education Team set sail for a week-long education trip onboard Silurian yesterday and arrived at Ardgour late last night. Our first group of the morning, from St Brides Primary School, began their adventure by hopping on the Corran ferry to be picked up in our RIB at Ardgour. After discovering Silurian inside and out, students were introduced to the research work carried out by HWDT. Everyone had the opportunity to hold the crabs and starfish caught at the weekend by a local Tobermory fisherman.
We were then joined by two groups from Ardgour Primary School. The first group were treated to a sighting of a harbour porpoise, expertly spotted by Lewis, and everyone enjoyed comparing six different species of crab. We headed up Loch Linnhe to arrive at the Caledonian Canal, which will be our home for the next couple of nights.
Thursday 23rd April 2009
Three students from Canna Primary School joined us onboard Silurian this morning for a marine education workshop. We were pleased to be able to share the photos we took of the killer whales yesterday and impressed that the children were able to correctly identify John Coe. Thank you for your gifts of a pen, key ring and postcard from your school, which will remind us of our lovely visit to Canna.
After a short sail across to Rum and a quick lunch of soup and sandwiches, we welcomed pupils from Rum Primary onboard for an afternoon marine education workshop. Some of the highlights were listening to the animal sounds (especially the grey seal!) and learning about the wonderful marine life of the Hebrides.
‘I thought the trip was interesting and fun. We learnt a lot about whales and dolphins. I hope you come back and visit again.’ Sorcha, student at Rum Primary School.
Wednesday 22nd April 2009
Following yesterday’s successful visit to Kilchoan, the Education Team boarded Silurian
yet again and set sail for Lochaline Primary School, across the Sound of Mull and about two hours South of Tobermory. Although conditions were a little choppy on the way down, a sheltered anchorage awaited us in Loch Aline. Students were collected from the pier in trips coordinated around the ferry timetable. None of the students had visited Silurian
before and so we began with a treasure hunt to investigate the boat. The local sea creatures had been cared for overnight in an aerated tank and delighted the children once again.
Here is a selection of comments from Lochaline Primary School students:
‘I enjoyed looking around the boat and I liked looking at the crabs and the fish.’
‘I enjoyed meeting the crew and I learnt that there are more than one species of dolphin in the Hebrides.’
After waving goodbye to Lochaline, we set sail for Canna in less than comfortable conditions but in the safe hands of Skipper Brian and First Mate Lewis. A couple of hours from our destination, we were greeted by the distinctive dorsal fin of John Coe and a female killer whale later identified as 007. See our Killer Whale Photo-ID catalogue HERE
. With high spirits, we continued on to our anchorage at Canna and enjoyed a tasty supper of curry.
Tuesday 21st April 2009
The Education Team sailed across the Sound of Mull this morning onboard Silurian to visit Kilchoan Primary School on the mainland. Upon arrival, the crew decided that students should board via the RIB, which is always popular with the children! After discovering what it would be like to live onboard for ten days, students were introduced to the work of HWDT by practising visual observation skills and learning about the hydrophone. Staff at Sea Life Surveys had kindly allowed us to borrow their creel pots on Sunday. It was great fun to teach students about the three different species of crab, a starfish and a scorpion fish we had caught. Once all students were back on dry land, we enjoyed a nice lunch in the sun and headed back to Tobermory.
‘Great morning. The kids were fully involved and active. Activities were well-suited to the groups and all children included in questioning. Thanks for an interesting visit.’ Mrs McLuckie, Head Teacher, Kilchoan Primary School.