Silurian Archives
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On board Silurian

Crew of the SilurianSilurian is HWDTs research and education vessel.

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.

Read the 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, click here.

If you would like to send the crew an e-mail with your questions click here.

Click here to view the Silurian Log archive.


28th May 2009

Date: Thursday 28th May 2009
Anchorage: Bàgh na Dòirlinne (north of Gigha)
Position: 55°43’.513N, 005°44’.031W
Distance travelled: 50.8NM

* Basis for planning for the day: Indecision is the key to flexibility.
* Cartography lesson for the day: Mull of Kintyre.

During the day we had all kinds of weather. Although the day started ”iffy” and we put on all our foul weather gear to start, gradually we peeled off layers of clothing and sea surface flatted more and more. Lumpy seas made observations by the mast very challenging, and Captain reported he was impressed that the researchers failed to be troubled by sea sickness. We sailed into Corryvreckan and at times with the tide, we achieved 13 knots! Sightings were few, some harbour porpoises and seals, and by the end of the day everyone knew how to identify the guillemots! Finally some sun lit the scenery a bit and guided us towards a nice adventurous remote anchorage, where two brave hearts went for a swim. After eight and one half hours on effort, we welcomed the beach combing on the north end of Gigha anchorage, Bàgh na Dòirlinne. Back onboard, we examined a former whelk egg mass (capsules left). These are called “sea wash balls” because they were once used like a sponge or flannel. Apparently, there are many eggs laid but only a few whelks live, having survived by eating the other eggs. Whelks are a delicacy for Southenders (from Essex)!

27th May 2009

Date: Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th May 2009
Anchorage: Mhòr Bay (North of Kerrera)
Position: 56°24’.785N, 005°31’.454W
Distance travelled: 23.8NM

Arrived at Tobermory yesterday to join our new friends and the hosts on the Silurian. Dinner was preceded by orientation and important safety tips. And then the spread was traditional Scottish fare – haggis and neeps. A new taste treat for some aboard. To bed in the freezer, and significant adaptation for survival. Strict instructions were given about NOT getting up too early, before 8 am unless you were desperate and quiet.
Morning briefing included instruction for action ”on effort”. Then a brief trip to town for last minute supplies before we departed Tobermory. Training on data entry as well as observation assignments started as we motored south through the Sound of Mull. Sightings included several harbour porpoises. We anchored in a protected area off Kererra Island, just out of site of Oban.

Sunday 24th May

Date: Sunday 24th May
Anchorage: Tobermory Bay, Isle of Mull
Position: 56°37`.186N, 006°03`.949W
Distance travelled: 5.5NM

Highlights, lowlights and any general comments from the week as written by the members of crew:
Laura: Friday was the highlight of the trip to me, it’s an easy choice and I’m sure a popular one but I think the day summarised everything great about being out in the ocean - sun, sailing, tranquillity, beautiful views and most of all the privilege of close up views of marine mammals. Lowlights, one word, snoring!
Christian: The ever ongoing change of weather, sea state and scenery. The sudden appearance of sea mammals.
Alastair: Highlight - simply being out at sea on the boat everything else simply added to a great experience, no negatives.
Danielle: My personal highlight was swimming at sunset, with a seal nearby. The gorgeous scenery as we sailed each day, along with our anchorages each night. Sunshine and Common dophins! The view from the crow’s nest. Being on Silurian once again with a fantastic group of people. My lowlight of this trip is that it will end way too soon!
Lyn: Highlights - viewing my first ever whale, when all I have known is ‘Free Willy’ or David Attenborough! Then on the same day - sitting out on the bowsprit when suddenly I am surrounded by dolphins swimming beneath me, turning over and looking up and miraculously swimming to and fro in front of the bow without coming to any harm - amazing!!!!!!! The dressing up in oilskins, life jacket and safety strap and clinging on to the boat when the sea suddenly gets closer to you than you’d like it to! The daily upper-body workout in the Heads?!?
Skipper playing tunes on his tin whistle - to entice the animals? Well it certainly worked when the Minke arrived - will never forget that! Listening to the military sonar going berserk on their final day - the silence the next day, when they’d all gone. Being the first person up in the mornings and viewing our beautiful surrounding scenery in solitude. Lewis’ wonderful food - especially second breakfasts - most especially the gorgeous pancakes! Yum, yum, yum!
Lowlights - being very soggy and thawing a packet of frozen peas and two frozen 4 pint bottles of milk!?
Phil: As ever on Silurian the companionship, tolerance, enthusiasm & stamina of the crew & volunteers, the animals, birds, seas & islands..& Silurian looking after us.
Lowlights: That bloody toilet seat, that bloody binlid, no petrels & no otters, but hope to put that right in the next 3 days out sea kayaking.
Glen: A cheery crew and a grand cruise apart from a scandalous shortage of decent oatmeal and an overabundance of ginger biscuits.
Gemma: My transformation from Education bod to Science Monkey is complete! I don’t want to go home! Although, what is it they say about working with children and animals?! Not sure I can add technical equipment to that mix. Highlights: Canna, the most beautiful place on Earth on Friday night. Lowlights: my 22 litre shower shame.
Lewis: Climbing compass hill on Canna to find views which very few have seen. Glen almost ruining the pan while providing, very tasty, Stovies. Another very varied week with an average, just, amount of water usage.

Saturday 23rd May

Date: Saturday 23rd May
Anchorage: Loch na Drome Buidhe
Position: 56°39`.227N, 005°56`.526W
Distance travelled: 40.0NM

This time last night it was a beautiful, still, Hebridean evening....and tonight it is just as tranquil and calm. BUT in between we had some weather! Canna to Ardnamurchan was interesting to put it mildly. Still, we’ve all got our sea legs so we stayed on effort at least part of the way and Skipper Glen starred with some superb down wave stuff as we approached the point.
Our Canadian lass has just braved a swim and has been joined by a seal (the seal looks cold, Danielle doesn’t), the editor will take out the next bit that says she talked a good swim all week but didn’t swim the swim. The First Mate starred with a real feast for our last night: local lamb in red wine with dauphinoise potatoes, sweet potato garlic mash and rat(atouille) for the veggies.
A glass or two of wine, a nip of Malt and amazingly drum and bass arrangements of Scottish folk music, surprisingly brilliant....and so to bed to await the next instalment of weather.
Editor's Comments: Thanks everyone for a wonderful meal and good banter this evening. Good on you Danielle, you're braver than me!
Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, 28 Main Street, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland, PA75 6NU Contact Us