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.
14th May 2009
Date: Thursday 14th May
Anchorage: Tobermory Bay
Position: 56°37’.191N, 006°03’.950W
Distance travelled: 28.7NM
With heavy hearts and heavy stomachs we set off on our final voyage homeward bound towards Tobermory. The voyage was silent, apart from nostalgic quips, one liners and singing the theme tune from “local hero”
“Cetaceans trips are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get out.”
“I have to say, I know I have said this before but I have never been spoiled so much on trips before”
“I feel a minke feeling coming on”
“If there is a signal I can make a cake”
“Shore run in ten minutes!”
“How many sheets of toilet paper do we have left?”
“For the love of God, find us a fin Jan!”
“Ginger nut anyone? “
“Is that Petrina in the kitchen again?”
“Has anyone seen my hairbrush?”
“No one makes a hot chocolate like Petrina makes a hot chocolate”
“We should live for the now but the now’s are running out.”
“Is this another local hero moment?”
“Please try not to round!”
“Who’s on data?”
“Ow, my head!”
“Did you know there are ants on the shaints?”
Master & Commander: “May all the wives and sweethearts never meet.”
“Did you get that shag?”
“But that’s pasta??”
“It’s the whole package”
“I’ve got this wee feeling”
“That blo**y bin!”
“Skippy,Roo and bouncing baby bunnies”
“It’s probably not the best place to sit at the moment”
“Forget the birds, get the cake out!”
“Do you really need me down there? I’m quite happy to stay up here for another hour”
“Night night, don’t let the bed bugs bite”
“Less chimping and more chatting”
The smell of golden Virginia and fresh coffee first thing in the morning...
The pumping of the toilet late at night...
The howling of the wind and the anchor alarm going off...
The raindrops & condensation on the roof falling on our faces...
The humming of “local hero” theme tune...
Quote: I grew up with the legend that God made the world in six days. When God was resting, as everyone should on the seventh day, he suddenly discovered that he had completely forgotten to use one last handful of jewels which he had meant to place in some exotic area like the Caribbean. However, rather than break the Sabbath more than was necessary , he just opened a window in heaven and threw the jewels out without even bothering to watch where they fell. Some cynics claimed that he still doesn’t know but that, in fact, they strung themselves out along the north-west coast of Scotland forming the long line of islands now known as the Outer Hebrides.
We all believe this to be true, some of us came with no expectations having never experienced anything like this before; some regulars had a first even after so many visits, all of us left wanting more...
10th-13th May 2009
Date: Wednesday 13th May
Anchorage: Loch Moidart
Position: 56°47’.228N, 005°50’.181W
Distance travelled: 59.0NM
We set off with huge expectations, unfortunately the sea was silent there was too much active sonar and there wasn’t even a porpoise to be heard. Clicks none, sonar thousands... Singing “we lost that minke feeling” did not work, sending Russell up the crow’s nest with lucky charms did not work. We sailed out of Loch Scavaig pass the American Warship who asked the “Captain” of the vessel to declare his intentions, Skippy got his stripes and we were allowed to pass by its rear at a distance. Through the Sound of Canna out to Oigh Sgeir and sailed round Muck to Loch Moidart where we moored up and visited Castle Tiorim, beautiful spot, Petrina was overjoyed to see the grass and daisies and rolled around in appreciation. A few silhouette animals and YMCA on top of the hills and then back to the Silurian. So what did we do all day? Well coffee and cake, visits to the crow’s nest, charting Patina’s bruise on the bruise colour monitor, sun worshiping and floggings strapped to the mast. Dinner was as good as ever, our last cooked meal on board was veggie lasagne, apple and plum crumble and custard, followed by cheese and biscuits bliss!
Date: Tuesday 12th May
Anchorage: Loch Scavaig (South of Skye)
Position: 57°11’.804N, 006°09’.971W
Distance travelled: 56.8 NM
What a day! The sun was in the sky and the sea was silky. We rose early and managed to be off anchor by 8.00am. Upon leaving Dunvegen and travelling along to Neist Point we set off into the big blue. In the distance we could see the mighty arsenal of NATO gather in the Minch there was something going on.. We were going to raise the big panda in defiance but we felt that we might all become endangered species if we did that! It was not long before on the hydrophone we picked up the ships sonar. By this time Russell was aloft straining out into the blue sky for whales, he thought he saw something in the distance, but managed to finish his bacon butties before realising that it was a minke travelling at a great speed around 15 knots, surging through the water seemingly distressed. We monitored the minke for a while until we could no longer keep it in sight, then reviewing our observation of the encounter we carried on course South towards Canna. It wasn’t long before we run into another minke swimming in the same direction and we knew that we were going to have an interesting day. Strangely enough we found ourselves in the presence of the innocent, elegant white beaked dolphins; there were lots of small groups milling about in the Sea of the Hebrides, two of which graced us with their presence on the bow while the others fed. Russell dropped from the mast and Christina took his place just in time to hear Jan screaming “ shighting” in her best Plockton cadence, we were in a dazzling array of common dolphins, you could have almost walked to Skye on them. There must have been at least 250 dancing and prancing around who were happy to bowride the boat for at least half an hour while we snapped away with dizzy delight, it was like champagne corks popping up everywhere. An emotional moment for all. We turned back on course heading through the sound of Rhum, where we briefly saw a third minke that surfaced twice before carrying on through to Loch Scavaig chugging gently past Soay Island infamous with its connection with Gavin Maxwell and his “basking sharks enterprise”. Onwards we went towards the head of the Loch with the evening sun disappearing behind the peaks of the cuillins. Seals were resting on the rocks and otters swimming round the anchor chain, plenty of terns and black guillemots. We disembarked and ventured across the gabbro rocks and over the brow to see Loch Corus dappled in evening sunlight. One of our party braved the icy waters and took a dip, very briefly, another paddled and had the camera while others climbed to dizzy heights to peruse the view. Some of the party decided to ramble a little too far and got stranded ashore until the skipper graciously came and rescued them shaking his head in disapproval! We were prepared to eat humble pie as we smelt the delicious aroma of Lewis’s pork loin dinner which got washed down with white wine and topped off with maltesers. We reviewed the day with the recordings from the hydrophone and toasted ourselves to an unforgettable day! How can this get any better?
Date: Monday 11th May
Anchorage: Loch Dunvegan
Position: 57°26’.363N, 006°35’.388W
Distance travelled: 61.5NM
A big happy birthday to Christina, what a wonderful place to have a birthday. Kissed by the early morning sun on the Shiant Islands, puffins flying and seals swimming under the boat. After a scrub of the boat we headed out through the teeth followed by the blue men. We followed the eastern side of Lewis / Harris towards Scalpay and finally Christina’s birthday wish came true when Russell was taking a sneaky picture while on duty and under the watchful eye of the master and commander surfaced the first minke of the season. After all the force ten gales we had at the start of our adventure we had finally found our minke, named Christina after the birthday girl. A beautiful creature in its prime we gently observed and took many pictures for later identification, Petrina had prime view as she was perched up the crow’s nest munching her takeaway breakfast of BLT. We zigzagged across the Minch and zigzagged even further, until Jan was press ganged into the harness. Up she went like a ferret up a drainpipe with lots of encouragement for her team mates. She pirouetted around like a ballerina but no sightings were to be had. However the ballerina from swan lake turned into the ugly duckling as she grasped the mast desperate not to fall on the way down, she was cocooned on top of the sail terror took over and her clean underwear was a waste of time, the nail marks will be scoured into the mast for prosperity. Unfortunately she forgot to take up her camera so she will have to do the same again tomorrow but with a lot more cameras there waiting for the prime shot. Lewis knocked up some soup for everyone and refuelled we carried on. The views were spectacular, calm sea and cloudless sky, both Christina and Petrina had their first sightings of porpoises and as we approached Dunvegan we spotted two buzzards having an ariel battle with a golden eagle. After a short trip ashore we had Christina’s birthday dinner of Mull lamb and cous cous, although of course she is vegetarian.. and had roast veg. Followed by Kate’s well presented birthday cake with six candles in (which had to be quickly blown out for the next birthday on board) We then replayed some of the strange sounds we picked up during the day, it was exciting to be able to match up actual porpoise sightings with the clicks picked up by the hydrophone. We also think we heard a submarine, periscope up. Dive! Dive! Dive! Tomorrow we are heading back round the coast of Skye past Neist Point which is a known viewing point for passing whales. Reveille at seven.
Date: Sunday 10th May
Anchorage: Shiant Islands
Position: 57°53’.655N, 006°21’.633W
Distance travelled: 51.6NM
Windy start and five toilet rolls later we zipped out of the bay crossing The Little Minch heading towards Shiant Island which is predominantly populated with puffins now all full of rice! The sun was shining; weather was breezy lots of possible sightings to be had. Early morning crepes helped ease us into a state of superb concentration for spotting. Today was the day that the crow’s nest got a few visitors, Russell was the first to venture in, and braved the winds and the glare although we think he went up to escape Jan’s chattering. Andrew was next and only got tempted out with some cheese toasties. Lots of rubbish floating around until Jan spotted our first common dolphin of the day off the coast of Harris, a family of three. We got the cameras out and watched their antics from a distance until they became photo shy. We sent Kate up into the nest next, the sea was so calm it was like glass, there was snow on the Torridon range and beyond and she sang my heart burn will go on, after the great curry last night, while practicing her Kate Winceyette pose and giving the skuas the eye. Seabirds were plentiful. Lots of birds of a feather, flocking together awaiting Silurian’s arrival with feathered anticipation, common terns, skuas, storm petrels and great northern divers all mingled with the usual motley crew. Christina went up into the crow’s nest next running up the mast like a pro, it turns out heights are no object as she is a keen paraglider. We reached Shiant Island with enough time for a walk around with a few people falling around. Lewis nearly getting cut off by the tide and having to wade his way back to safety, Petrina finding a quicker way to come down, sliding ungracefully on her gluteus maximus about twenty feet! There was a cottage on the island, a well and a lot of boggy areas which Nienke was swallowed into up to her knees. Towering cliffs with all manner of birds wheeling about, an abundance of panoramic beauty and serenity. Back on board we finished the evening with cocktails watching the sunset on the poop deck before retiring for dinner made by Skippy, a happy evening of tick removal followed. Jan has a minke at dawn feeling, and will be up with the lark she spotted earlier.
9th May 2009
Date: Saturday 9th May 2009
Anchorage: Loch Gairloch
Position: 57°42’.101N, 005°43’.206W
Distance travelled: 55.3NM.
Early start today as we had a lot of ground to cover, but it started with a mystery, all the hairbrushes were missing! The girls were running around looking like Diana Ross in the middle of a hair reaction, thankfully Russell came to the rescue with his comb that somehow has never been used. Plaited and ready to go we headed up Caol Rona sailing backwards and forwards transecting the inner sound between Ronda and the Applecross Penisular. Weather started pretty rocky with heavy hale and squally showers. Christina made her now internationally renounced marble cake passed down from her granny though the family tree which we saved for our first sighting. Coming up the inner sound First mate Lewis was up on deck taking photo’s and set his life jacket off in a flash but found for the rest of the day his neck was nice and warm! Despite being accused of chatting all the time Jan with one glance managed to spot a fin, closely followed by two others, we had spotted our first family of common dolphin. Spirits raised by this sighting we continued our culinary journey with risotto, followed by marble chocolate cake. We have seen lots of puffins and skewers along the way who were obviously looking for a taste of the cake, but Russell got there first. Weather now bright, sunglasses on now it’s not force ten its factor ten we spotted another fin on the way to Gairloch; finally we have hit our winning streak! We zigzagged over to Badachro where we went for pre dinner drinks leaving Jan to whip up an amazing feast of chicken curry, nan bread, bombay aloo and enough rice to feed the entire puffin population! Skipper put the toilet rolls on ice ready for overnight relief when the wind factor hits hurricane force, another fantastic day aboard the Silurian.