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.
10th June 2010
Thursday 10th June 2010
Anchorage: Loch Mariveg, Lewis
Position: 58°05.200 N 006°23.400 W
Distance surveyed: 37 nm
After waking up and breakfasting in Duntulm Bay, we set out around the point of Rubha Hunish on the North coast of Skye – which seems to be a feeding hotspot for minke whales. Sure enough we soon saw the sight of kittiwakes in the distant waves, and while rolling around on the bright sunny swell we all caught sight of a single glossy black whale. This was followed by a glorious journey in good weather out to the magnificent Shiant Islands. In such bright, calm weather it was an incredible experience to see so many nesting seabirds on the cathedral like cliffs – pairs of guillemots, puffins and fulmars in a swirling, ethereal commotion. Four of us managed to land on the rocky, slippery shore where we admired the natural rock arch and watched a great black gull attack a puffin, carrying it to its death. There was beautiful kelp in the rock pool that looked liked a mermaids garden, and cliff faces full of silver grasses, purple thrift and yellow lichens. The rest of the day we progressed towards Lewis, through the Minch with Harris to our left. Arriving finally in the beautiful, astounding Loch Mariveg, three took the dingy out around the loch. Back to the Silurian for a wonderful dinner prepared by Pippa. A decision was made to identify more wildflowers over the next few days - marsh marigold and silverweed being found after a short walk around the mainland on Lewis.
7th to 9th June 2010
Monday 7th June 2010
Anchorage: Kyle of Lochalsh
Position: 57° 16.800 N 005°42.700 W
First day of a new trip with the volunteers joining in the evening at Kyle of Lochalsh – a more northerly departure point to enable us to survey the north and west of the Hebrides. Crew: Dave, Roddy, Susie. Volunteers: Sarah, Sarah, Susie, Pippa, Mike, Wilf.
Tuesday 8th June 2010
Anchorage: Loch Torridon
Position: 57°33.200 N 005°38.000 W
Day started with research and safety briefings and then we were off heading north, past the Crowlin Islands and Rassay and into Loch Torridon. It was a wee bit windy and the sea correspondingly lumpy, and there were a few ill effects on the volunteers, two of whom were horizontal for most of the afternoon, swiftly recovering once we were in the shelter of the evening mooring. However we still saw a nice group of common dolphins which came in for a quick bow ride and, once we were in Loch Torridon and it was much calmer, some good harbour porpoise sightings. Also lots of acoustic detections on the hydrophone. After tea ashore for a bonny wander. Light amazing as the sun set.
Wednesday 9th June 2010
Anchorage: Duntulm Bay, Skye
Position: 57°41.300 N 006°20.900 W
Distance surveyed: 29 nm
After a glorious sunset last night, the colours so vibrant the mountains were almost day glo orange and the clouds sitting on their peaks were tinged bright pink, we finally went to bed and fell asleep to the sound of the wind clattering through the rigging and the gentle creak of the boat.
We are now moored up in Duntulm Bay after a full day punctuated by gales of laughter. The late evening sun is bouncing off the sea, gulls and fulmars are spiralling above us and the smell of onions and herbs is wafting onto deck from the pots bubbling on the stove in the kitchen.
We started the day with an impromptu appearance of an otter fishing in Torridon Loch. After breakfast we had a talk about birds before setting off under the power of the engines into a lead grey sea crested with white spume. But the weather was on the turn and we were soon under a full set of sails. We took turns to scan the horizon, tied to the mast, as we rode the bow splashing through the waves. It was exhilarating as we bounced through the Minch and despite the sea conditions managed to spot a group of porpoise, which was also picked up on the acoustic detector (along with a lot of snapping shrimp). And lots of birds – practically all on the list, including puffins shooting like little fat rockets across the water. By lunch time the sun was out and everybody was on deck as we flew along at 7.5 knots.
In the evening we set off in the RIB across the bay. It was flat calm. As we made our way up to the ruins Duntulm Castle silhouetted against the evening sky we passed swathes of late flowering bluebells, punctuated with pink ragged robin, clumps of pink thrift and early orchids.
As sunset set the hills alight we returned to Silurian, mugs of tea and home baked flapjacks.
4th & 5th June 2010
Position: 56°37.151N, 06°03.729W
Distance travelled: 76.6NM
The volunteers left this morning really early to Loch Boisdale from where they took the ferry to Oban. This time, the engine part was on the ferry, so as soon as it had arrived and was installed we made our long journey back to Tobermory. The sea was brilliant with hardly any swell and some minor wind ripples. Despite our effort looking for animals, it took quite a while before we had our first sightings. Just south of Rum we saw a basking shark. Near sunset we came across a field of common dolphins which included small calves as well. Some of the smaller groups joined the boat for some bowriding, whereas others made their way past us without a jolly ride. We enjoyed the dolphins, especially when they were leaping out of the water in front of the setting sun! A nice journey back, and when we moored up in Tobermory at 2 in the morning, we were tired but looked back at a very nice passage.
From here, I would like to thanks all volunteers again for their understanding and optimism. I’m glad that you, although the problem with the engine, did enjoy the trip very much. We had a really nice group and I hope to see you again.
2nd & 3rd June 2010
Anchorage: Loch Maddy
Position: 57°35.4747, 07°09.349W
Distance travelled: 0NM
Unfortunately Ruth left the boat and we all missed her optimism, stories and enthusiasm. While Dave and Tom spend their days re-wiring wires, getting parts from all over the island with the help of local lorry drivers and working on other tasks on the boat, everyone else enjoyed the time in Loch Maddy by doing various other activities, including going to the RSPB bird reserve to listen to the characteristic sounds of the corncrake, cycling over the island in a force 6 and even got ‘lost’ on the only main road ;), nature walks, spending more time in the showers, enjoying the cocktails in the bar, ferry journey to Harris, chats with local people, fishing and visiting the local art museum/gallery. Evenings were spent in the restaurant, while enjoying some local spirits. Everyone on the island seemed to have heard about our engine problem and many people came to the pier just to ask whether they could help or just for a chat. Many thanks for all locals for the help!! In the afternoon on the 3rd, we were all looking out for the ferry, which hopefully should bring the new – and correct - start engine. Unfortunately, after all cars were unloaded it became clear that the part was not onboard, which meant that the only way to guarantee the volunteers to be back on the mainland in time for their flights and other arrangements, was to leave the boat and crew in Loch Maddy and leave the next morning very early.
1st June 2010
Anchorage: Loch Maddy
Position: 57°35.4747, 07°09.349W
Distance travelled: 9.2NM
Leaving our anchorage, it was soon clear this was going to be day with quite a bit of wind again. The plan was to zigzag our way up north, starting with a crossing over to Skye where we would reach the more sheltered areas since the wind had not changed direction from SE to SW as it was forecasted to be. However, soon after we left, smoke was discovered and after a quick assessment and a thorough check it was decided to head for Loch Maddy for there was a problem with the starting engine. The trip was against the rolling waves and swell and the onion soup – cleverly already prepared already in the morning so it only needed heating up - made its way through the gally leaving onions even at the ceiling. After lunch alongside the CalMac pier (not the onion soup, for the remaining was put in the sink and people had been washing their hand above it), the volunteers left the boat for some walk, luxury showers and a drink in the bar, while crew tried to sort out the problem and ordered new parts. Hopefully the new start engine will arrive in 2 days time, so we will be able to sail back to Tobermory before the end of the trip.
31st May 2010
Anchorage: Northeast of Cheesebay
Position: 57°39.426N, 07°05.492W
Distance travelled: 55.7NM
After last night’s excitement of the stranded sperm whale, which turned out to be already reported to the national stranding coordinator on the 19th January, we were full of excitement and really looking forward to see some live animals. Since the weather was quite reasonable to survey west of the Outer Hebrides, with only a slight swell and not too much wind either, it was decided to survey this western stretch of the research area. After a transect of about 15miles towards the deeper waters, a transect more or less parallel to the cost was conducted for about 12 miles before we headed back to the Sounds of Harris. The further away from shore we came, the rougher the sea state became (coming more and more out of the protection of the islands), but nevertheless, at the roughest moment we saw 3 white-beaked dolphins. Coming up with lots of energy and splashes all over, it was possible to follow them in the - at that point - slightly rough conditions. Their white patches on the body were only occasionally visible through all the spray and whitecaps. The animals were not really interested in us and therefore they were left alone quite soon. The engine was killed for a bit to try to record some of their sounds, but nothing was picked up, and soon the animals disappeared in the distance. Continuing our survey, we did not see anything till we reached the west entrance of the Sound, when we saw some seals. Nevertheless there where major groups of gannets diving and kittiwakes and terns foraging. An amazing sight and although we tried very hard to find some common dolphins in the vicinity of those diving gannets, no cetaceans were seen. After passing the sound, a beautiful anchorage was found in the shelter of the islands on the north side of North Uist. Although... during the night the swell increased and Silurian and crew was rocked asleep by the swinging motion.