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.
Saturday 30th April 2011 – Phil’s Birthday
Anchorage: Bernera harbour, west of Lewis
Position: 58°15.608’N 006°52.188’W
Distance travelled: 62.3NM
Saturday dawned to a chorus of Happy Birthday sung to our birthday boy, Phil whose birthday wish was to see Common Dolphins. Enough said. We set course for the Sound of Harris and headed out. Calm at the anchorage but once in the Minch our breakfast was fighting back. There was some swell but it was a wonderful sunny start to the day. For my first full day on board the cetaceans were somewhere else it seemed but there were plenty of birds and creels to see. In fact there was a bit of a creel fest. No-one had seen a porpoise but the hydrophone picked one up at 11.15 but they remained invisible between the waves. Then ‘sighting’ rang out from the stern. Approaching fast, a group of Common Dolphins courtesy of rent-a-dolphin for Phil. They stayed with us for a time then moved away but just as the excitement began to subside, Tom atop the crow’s nest called ‘sighting’ and this time it was a Sunfish. We lost it then Tom spotted it again but then it disappeared. The afternoon was punctuated with another birthday treat, a fab cake made by Emma and eaten by all. It was some day and as we travelled North we were feeling pretty good and/or thinking about dinner. In fact most of us were thinking of going ashore for a walk and then dinner but before we could relax another sighting. A Risso and then another and another. Nine in total perhaps, one jumping, one beautifully marked, one chin slapping, all feeding and heading finally out to sea. Lots of smiles especially from me as it was my first view of Rissos. A delicious meal with special request crumble and the day was complete. It was a perfect day. What will tomorrow bring? Another discussion about the best film ever? The best way to remove ticks? More crumble? Or maybe some more incredible sightings. Watch this space. Jan PS Did I mention the red throated diver?
Friday 29th April 2011
Anchorage: Loch Eport
Position: 57°33.646’N 007°10.250’W
Distance travelled: 44.7NM
Today was like… hmmmm… ummmm… Awesome again?! DEFINITELY!!! Our day started with a blue sky and the sun was burning our heads. But to top that we saw another Minke Whale just after a bit more than an hour on effort. With this amazing creature came a Basking Shark which was swimming lazily through the nice and calm ocean. Our motivation is still up the top and the weather should stay sweet as. We’ve got a new crewmember; Jan joined us in Lochmaddy where the most of us took a nice and cosy shower. After everybody was washed and clean we headed to our nightstay in Loch Eport. After a feeding dinner we are now playing cards.
Thursday 28th April 2011
Position: 57°31.821’N 007°38.377’W
Another very successful day of surveying today. The highlight came when we saw six Risso’s dolphins! They were very kind to us by coming as close as 40 metres at one point giving us a very good look. We were able to take good photos that should be able to be used to identify a good few of them. They varied in size and age and they hung out with Silurian for a good quarter of an hour. On top of that our hydrophone picked up more harbour porpoises. As we approached the Monarchs we were overwhelmed with grey seal sightings. Phil counted a total of 34 different species of animal throughout the day! The weather improved gradually as the day went by and we ate our simply marvellous dinner with a fantastic sunset as a backdrop. An incredible day that has summed up how fortunate this trip has been already.
Wednesday 27th April 2011
Position: 57°31.950’N 007°36.276’W
Distance travelled: 54.0 NM
Second day… and a long one. An early start after a lovely night in remote Gometra harbour (a disturbed one for the crew who had to reset the anchor in the early hours).
Out through the Treshnish and across the Sea of Hebrides in an increasing breeze from astern, sailing under full jib alone at 5 knots+ but with difficult sighting conditions and no activity except birds for some hours.
Then an excited shout from the stern as a whale surfaced a few metres astern. It was gone in seconds but appeared to be a fin whale, rarely seen in these parts! We were unable to turn to relocate it so continued our voyage to Eriskay, our only other sighting a porpoise crossing only a few metres ahead of our bow.
A walk to the famous Politician pub, returning to a delicious dinner of mixed veg and rice cooked by our ever working skipper sees the whole crew either asleep already or on the way.
Tuesday 26th April 2011
Anchorage: Gometra harbour
Position: 56°28.864’N 006°15.940’W
Distance travelled: 32.4 NM
So… we had a very unexpected, exciting start to the expedition today. After preparing to sit around for two weeks with the possibility of seeing nothing, we had a surprise. Ten minutes in we had grey or common seals, still not sure being amateurs etc. Soon after we had our first sighting of a small group of harbour porpoises. So we were all buzzing with our good fortune. And to put the cherry on the cake, we heard the blow from a whale just 50m behind us. Turned out to be a minke whale rolling on the surface. So a brilliant start to the expedition. Hopes are now high and can’t wait for more.