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.
16th April 2010
Position: 56°37.315N, 06°03.490W
Distance travelled: 33.0nm
We left Canna after a leisurely breakfast and left on a perfectly flat sea. We past Rum on the west side of the island and saw both Eigg and Muck. Yesterday was a day of few sightings, but that was compensated today. Sighting after sighting continued for quite a while and many seals, harbour porpoises and flocks of birds (mainly shearwaters) were recorded. By the time we passed the Point of Ardnamurchan, we started a dream sequence where we saw a killer whale, mermaid and a killer squid. We finally moored on the pontoon at Tobermory.
Memoirs of the trip;
• Special thanks must go Nienke, John and Roddy, without whom, we would not have had such an amazing experience....
• Above all, the delicious amazing cuisine which included an array of yummie soups and bacon butties, not to mention the tasty homemade cakes and PUDDINGS! Surpassing all expectations... especially Sophie who was expecting ‘to be fed on oatcakes all week’!
• Sightings included porpoises, a minke whale smell and all, hence its nickname ‘skinky minke’.....as well as a bottlenose dolphin who followed the Silurian back into Castlerigg Bay.... what an end to a full day of visual surveying!!
• Geoff’s infamous quiz facilitating the group’s initial bonding.... his role summarised by the quotes of the week “bringing joy to the world” (Geoff) by ‘educating the educators” (Rachael)
• The wonder of the MacLeod’s Maidens (stacks) as we sailed round into Loch Bracadale past Idrigill Point on the Isle of Skye....what a landscape...
15th April 2010
Position: 57°03.282N, 06°29.535W
Distance travelled: 40.3nm
We left anchorage early, and zigzagged down from Skye to Canna. Not much wildlife to mention, only 1 seal and it was fairly overcast and cold. Sailing conditions on the other hand were perfect with the increased winds, and we spent the whole day sailing. At the end of the day we did a man overboard training, followed by a picturesque entrance towards our anchorage. We moored on the east coast of Canna and again took shore leave. We walked down to a secluded beach and saw a small prison on the summit of a headland. We also walked down to the only cafe/restaurant on the island where a total of 19 people live (6 of these are children). We saw more wildlife whilst enjoying a ‘wee’ drink and watching over the bay than the whole of the day – a couple seals and a sea eagle. Some of us went for a further walk over the crossway which connects Canna with Sunday, saw leaping seals and were picked up on the other side. The evening contained lots of laugher while people were challenged to perform certain tasks.
14th April 2010
Anchorage: Loch Bharcasaig, Skye
Position: 57°23.253N, 06°34.066W
Distance travelled: 52.5nm
We left Castlebay, Barra and followed the coastline Northwards and past the island of Eriskay, on meeting the headland on Sourth Uist. We travelled across the Minch (sailing) using the mizzen and the genoa. We were all on watch and continued with our duties, changing every hour. We also recorded navy sonar during a submarine exercise in the morning. When we past Idrigill Point, we decided to turn North and travel up Loch Bracadale, dropping anchor in a bay where we were invited over for langoustine on the BBQ by Norman and his family. After spending a very enjoyable evening with him, we travelled back to the boat for an evening of drinks and games.
13th April 2010
Anchorage: Castle Bay, south Barra
Position: 56°57.136N, 07°29.493W
Distance travelled: 45.9nm
Left Castlebay, Barra, and travelled up the Sound of Barra. Whilst enjoying a sailing lesson from the skipper, a bottlenose dolphin rudely interrupted. After some great photo opportunities and an hour’s watching, we lost sight of him. We travelled North through the Sound of Barra on the lookout for the resident group of bottlenose dolphins. Beautiful sunny beaches, but no more dolphins. We then travelled back to Castlebay to anchor for the night. The day was spent successfully bird counting, observing a great skua, diving gannets and many guillemots. Picked up on the hydrophone some great examples of different military sonar. On returning to our anchorage, we saw our bottlenose dolphin again and he kindly followed us into harbour, and posed for some more photos. Travelled over to shore for some shore leave, to enjoy a drink with some of the locals.
12th April 2010
Anchorage: Castle Bay, south Barra
Position: 56°57.136N, 07°29.493W
Distance travelled: 50.7NM
An incredible second day – waking to blue skies and calm seas anchored next to the gorgeous island of Rum. With an early start we set off to make the long journey across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides. Each of us had settled into our roles with two observing still, one at the computer, one relaying information and two taking a break. With little wind we made good headway keeping a careful eye for any signs of a Minke whale.
Having not seen anything for the first two hours there was then a call from the helm ‘Sighting!’ as the back of a majestic Minke broke the surface, our first sighting of a whale and the first of the season! Excitement went through the team as we stayed to collect photographs and enjoy the sight of such a wonderfully graceful animal. The Minke would only rise once or twice before diving deeper to forage for food with us waiting for up to ten minutes for it to break the surface again. Each time it rose from the waters you felt a tingle of pleasure and the privilege of seeing such a creature.
After spending some time with the whale we then had a run of sightings with seals and porpoises all in the same area. From there we then headed across the Minch with some serious boating for 6 hours only spotting two porpoises along the way finally making the tiny port of Castle Bay on the Island of Barra as the sun left us, the wind came up and the clouds moved in. We are now looking forward to our evening meal and a good night’s sleep after a long, tiring but fantastic day. Unfortunately, skipper has other plans: with increasing winds, we all have to do an hour of anchor watch during the night.
Today was absolutely amazing, slightly hazy with a strong wind, but the sun was shining and the sea was calm. We headed out with expectations of a long sale across the Minch, but little did we expect to see the first (stinky) Minke Whale of the season. It was an amazing moment and I feel honoured to have had such a good sighting of this beautiful creature. After watching out for sightings of the whale for about an hour, we headed off across the Minch for the next stage of our journey.
11th April 2010
Anchorage: Loch Scresort, Rum
Position: 57°00.802N, 06°16.127W
Distance travelled: 29.8NM
Wow what a great day! - amazing blue sky and sun. What a start.
Got up late (to Teacher’s standards) and had a leisurely breakfast before having the 2nd information session on what cetaceans to expect, how to monitor them and how to record them into the database. We also learnt about how the watches would be set up. 2 people observing for hourly slots from the bow, 2 people entering data and 2 people with an hour off (making teas, bringing around the bacon butties and keeping everything ship-shape).
Sightings for the day included harbour porpoises, grey and common seals. We also noted creel markers and any anthropogenic litter. Sun was blazing, slight swell, very good visibility, shame about the cold NW wind, force 3 at times. We even had people up the crow’s nest and Roddy with the sombrero!
The winter’s sun illuminated the islands of Eigg, Muck and finally mooring in the safety of the bay at Rum. Tonight’s great dinner of spaghetti bolognaise cooked by Rachael and Caroline before the evening sessions.
Roll on tomorrow....
Rachel & Sophie