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.
27th June 2009
Date: 27th June 2009
Anchorage: Isle of Endsay, Sound of Harris
Position: 57°46.266N 007°05.612W
Distance surveyed: 60 miles
Not long after we set off from the Monach Isles there was great excitement as we had our first site of a Minke whale, which was just the start of a very special day where we were bombarded by sighting after sighting of cetaceans. The sight tally resulted in a total of 27 grey seal, 15 harbour porpoise, 5 dolphin and 3 Minke whale. One particular dolphin encounter had the dolphins very close to the boat and riding the bow wave alongside us, an amazing and privileged experience. The number of sightings was due in some part to the calmness of the sea today, it was like a mirror, but mainly to the improving ability of the volunteers and of course the crew.
Our route today took us out to Whale rock where we saw, surprise, surprise; a Minke Whale. Not only that but we were so inundated with numerous other cetacean sightings it was near impossible to get them all registered but being the fab crew we are everything seen was duly entered.
Today was also an excellent day for bird spotting and being not 15 miles from St Kilda we saw lots of Puffins and Gannets.
We are now anchored watching a fabulous sunset in one of the most spectacular locations in the whole of Scotland, the Sound of Harris.
26th June 2009
Date: Friday 26th June 2009
At first there was a brisk wind but glassy wavelets. A Minke whale gave us a great show as he came to the surface near the boat twice – once to hear his blow and another to smell his breath. We kept him in sight for over 15 minutes. (There may have been two, but Lewis will have to check the photos.) Large number of birds flew by – graceful gannets up to a dozen at a time and flocks of guillemots of up to thirty. After lunch a great skua encircled the boat looking as if he might land on the boat back but decided better of it. The next several hours saw few birds, several grey seal heads and one porpoise. (Porpoise detection showed on the hydrophone data.).
We landed on Monarch Islands to flocks of sheep, rebuilt/ruined houses, and wild flowers – buttercup, daises, but the thistle was only in bud. The islands were inhabited for 100 years, then off and on due to soil erosion and troubles until all left slowly by attribution in the mid 1930’s. Two large white swans dived eating in a pond along with a female duck followed by seven chicks in a line behind. Fulmers nest here in the low rock walls and sand dunes because there are no trees. Terns swooped and oyster catchers scolded. Dozens of grey seals popped up, all looking our way, wary when the skipper stopped the motor and drifted. Lewis went in with a dry suit and viewed three to four at a time swimming under the boat. It was fascinating to see their heads well above the water and then all dive in unison. It was a truly gorgeous evening with radiant sun beams and on-off clouds. Chust sublime.
25th June 2009
Date: Thursday 25th June 2009
Anchorage: Vatersay Bay
Position: 56°55’479 North 07°31’962 West
Distance travelled: 62.4 miles
Today we headed out on some fairly rough seas not knowing if we would see anything or not. It was not too long however when we saw our first seal. The skies gradually turned blue and we were greeted by calmer waters. Not too long after that the crew had spotted the first of perhaps a group of 15 Basking Sharks! Luckily Captain Dave held his ground as we all funnelled to the far side of the boat for a look! Someone had to keep the boat from tipping! We sat amongst the group for perhaps 30 minutes as the sharks milled about feeding. More than happy with this sighting we moved on to our destination of Vatersay Bay wondering what might be next…well next was a large group of Risso’s Dolphins…somewhere between 15-17 strong. Some were breaching and just playing about. We were lucky enough to get some good recordings with the ships Hydrophones. A fun time had by all..humans and dolphins alike.
It was now time to find our lagoon at Vatersay Bay. We were escorted in by many birds on the way in as they were returning to their places of rest for the night as were we. We are now anchored in this picture postcard of a lagoon for a good nights sleep. 10 plus hours of data collected today. It was a good one!
24th June 2009
Date: Wednesday 24th June
Anchorage: Feall Bay, Coll.
Postion: 56°35’630N 06°39’863W
Distance Travelled: 23.1 miles.
Set off from Tobermory early afternoon, the volunteers immediately started their first surveys and recording of data and an hour later had the first sighting of a Minke whale, swiftly followed by a Harbour porpoise and a very brief glimpse of a Grey seal (all spotted by the crew, better luck tomorrow for the volunteers).
The day has been calm and sunny and visibility high. The remaining afternoon was spent searching and a second porpoise was seen late in the afternoon and we also saw plenty of seabirds, until finally arriving into our harbour for the night.
The location is extremely beautiful, the day was ended with walk along the island beach where we watched a most wonderful sunset.
Editors (Marine Biodiversity officers) notes: To top this all off we had a close otter sighting whilst on anchor and the sun turned the most crimson red.