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.
15th September 2009
Date: Tuesday 15th September
Anchorage: Loch Scresort, Rum
Position: 57°00’.747N, 06°16’.194W
Our mornings seem to begin with the same routine: breakfast around 7:30, reeling in the anchor, and a nice welcome-to-the-sea by a basking shark within minutes of our departure. Today was no different. However, having had an unforgettable and unbelievably rich day yesterday, the sea seemed to be void of marine life except the random rubbish spotting, creel, and occasional bird losing the battle against the Aeolus. Most of the day was spent in shoddy weather and choppy seas. Compared to the other days of the trip we went out, the sea was quite choppy, but according to Nienke, this was about an average sea for this area. We got to Rum safe and sound around 5:30. To our dismay and frustration, the windlis was out of order and the anchor was dragging. This problem proves especially aggravating for the two ladies, Laura and Sharon, inhabiting the front room, for the anchor locker is behind their mirror. They probably should be lauded for their efforts because the inoperable windlis makes the job of stowing the anchor excruciatingly longer than usual. However, thanks to the amazing supervision of Federico the ladies enjoy classic tunes with lyrics about chains as they are stowing the chain - thanks Federico. Hah! We went onto Rum’s remote shore and took advantage of a nice, hot, luxurious shower in a castle! From the looks of it, Rum has population of approximately 12. With most of the island kept as a preservation site, we deduced from the few houses dotting the shore that the population was smaller than most of our primary-school classes. Oh, and how could we forget the pub and wild blackberries. Dinner was a delicious meal of stir-fried chicken and rice prepared by Sharon. MMM! As any other night, the crew spent hours laughing, talking, and debating about various topics in the saloon after dinner. Tonight’s discussions included the origin of Rum’s name, discrepancies between the various international higher-education systems (with American schools being despicably over priced), the violations of EU law by many mainland Europe youth hostels implementing an age limit, and a variety of other ear-perking topics. Tomorrow is our last full day at sea, and we expect it to be a glorious day!
14th September 2009
Date: Monday 14th September
Anchorage: Acairseid Mhór, Eriskay
Position: 57°03’.959N, 07°17’.556W
Wow, what a day. That may not be scientific but today seemed to defy science. After another grey morning we set off into wall to wall blue skies and a flat calm sea. An excellent encounter with a juvenile basking shark got us started, but suddenly as we cruised along the west coast of Barra 2 mighty fins close inshore heralded the arrival of a pod of 4 killer whales. Everyone was completely put off guard with Phil’s announcement of the sighting, especially Edward who had just lifted the lid of the toilet only to hear KILLER WHALES! and ran up and missed his opportunity to use the loo (he held it for the duration of the sighting). We were lucky to be able to spend nearly 90 minutes following these beauties, 2 males & 2 females, as they headed south along the coast at 5 or 6 knots. Literally, hundreds of still photos and some video allowed definite identification of all 4, including the famous John Coe. On breaking off contact we headed back north to pass through the sound of Barra to our anchorage, and to cap off our day a pod of 5 of the “Barra Bottlenose” dolphins joined us in the clear shallow waters in a prolonged and enthusiastic display of bow riding and spinning. Fabulous birdlife included bonxies harassing gannets and a diver (blackthroated?) seeming to peer down into the water as the killer whales passed by. All in all a great day, concluded by a super salad, luscious lasagne and scrummy crumble. And so to bed to dream of more encounters to come.
13th September 2009
Date: Sunday 13th September
Anchorage: Castlebay, Barra
Position: 56°57’.155N, 07°29’.485W
Another day of superb Hebridean sea, scenery & sunshine but without a single cetacean to be seen.
Through Gunna Sound & across the Minch to visit Mingulay for lunch at anchor only 20 metres from a beautiful sandy beach complete with 30 or so grey seals including a fluffy newborn. Unfortunately the pup was on the only nice stretch of beach accessible to our zodiac, so the planned shorer leave was cancelled (other places were too exposed to the swell), but a challenging dingy drive around the Silurian was made instead. Leaving the anchorage proved tricky, with the first of the day`s 2 technical problems with the windlass. An exciting hour was spent off the exposed west coast ,viewing the spectacular 600 foot cliffs with hundreds of fulmars wheeling around them, before continuing observations back on the east side of the islands of Pabbay, Sandray & Vatersay as Glen expertly brought us through the skerries inshore of Muldoanich to a mooring in Castlebay. A very suntanned & glowing crew await an egg salad followed by lamb tikka & roasted veg.
12th September 2009
Date: Saturday 12th September
Anchorage: Gott Bay, Tiree
Position: 56°30’.726N, 06°48’.078W
Almost as soon as we set off through the morning mist on what was to become a VERY long day Laura spotted the first basking shark of the day, only a baby but very co-operative as it fed by hovering in the tidal flow with 30 tons of Silurian only a few feet away. More sharks appeared as we made our way west in glorious weather into open water to survey an area south of Tiree. As this was to turn into a 75 mile, 12 hour voyage we continued on effort in a straight line to the 50 metre contour and then north to Tiree. Another close shark encounter enlivened the afternoon though the whales & dolphins remained elusive. Only Erika spotted anything,2 brief sightings,1 a minke whale, the other most probably a breaching basking shark, but both well astern and going away. The day ended with mackerel, fried potato & peach ratatouille. Yep, that was peach ratatouille and it works (that’s what happens when Nienke cooks something she doesn’t know and becomes creative).