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.
Friday 15th July 2011
Distance travelled: 50.2NM
Today we woke up to overcast weather with predictions of occasional rain. After breakfast we did some distance training to which we found some of us had improved at least before we were then introduced to a new rota. We then went on effort.; throughout the day we received 29 acoustic detections, 25 harbour porpoise visual sightings, 1 grey seal and 4 common seals. In total the volunteers on the mast spotted 47 individual harbour porpoises; 3 of which were just 5 metres from the front of Silurian. Towards the end of the day we were let off effort and enjoyed yet another delicious meal cooked by Emma of chicken and veg; with lentil pie for the vegetarians. We are currently anchored at Kerrera playing an interesting game with skittles...
Thursday14th July 2011
Thursday 14th July
Anchorage: Craighouse, Jura
Distance travelled: 47.3NM
Today we woke up to cloudy weather. After eating breakfast we were able to have some time off before going on effort. During this time we played cards. When we went on effort we experienced some glorious weather, with perfect conditions for cetacean surveying. Through the course of the day we spotted 1 unidentified seal, 2 common seals and 1 grey seal, 5 minke whales and 14 harbour porpoises, although the hydrophone showed us that there were actually 27 harbour porpoises within our range. Upon locating the minke whales, we took time off effort to watch and photograph the whales. The whales were demonstrating feeding behaviour. Gemma enjoyed several hours watching them from the crow’s nest. Towards the end of the day, upon going off effort, we took time to relax and then ate a delicious dinner of macaroni cheese followed by lemon cheesecake. Tonight Laura enjoyed her first shower. We are currently trying to persuade Liam to follow Laura’s example.
Wednesday 13th July
Position: Bowmore, Islay
Distance travelled: 46.7NM
Today we were given the opportunity to survey an area where they are considering building a wind farm. Every day before we had been surveying with a systematic approach today we surveyed using line transects. We were each given two lines each to survey rather than changing every half an hour. The data we collected along with that of previous groups surveying the same area can be used to determine how diverse the eco system is and whether a wind farm will disturb marine life. Throughout the entire day we only saw one porpoise, however there were a lot of porpoise clicks being picked up by the hydrophone, we just weren’t getting a visual on the mammals. Although we didn’t see a lot it did mean that the wind farm being built possibly wouldn’t impact our marine eco system hugely. We think that the process of building wind farms causes disruption to the ecosystem, however once built it can provide a man-made reef for the marine animals. Therefore although for us surveying was relatively uneventful it was a fantastic thing that we weren’t making a lot of sightings in that area.
Although we weren’t seeing a lot of marine mammals the amount of coastal birds we saw was huge. By the end of the day we were all confident in identifying the different birds. We also learnt which birds are usually associated with marine mammals. For example shearwaters are associated with Minke whales and Gannets are commonly associated with Common dolphins. We were also able to view how each bird hunts and what effect that can have on its life span.
We ended the day by anchoring in Bowmore, Islay. Our usual shore trip was cut out of our daily routine as we were all far too tired after the long day and definitely ready for an extended sleep.
Written by the Earthwatch Teen team: Laura, Emma, Ailidh, Liam and Emma.
Tuesday 12th July 2011
Anchorage: Nave Island, Islay
Distance travelled: 41.4NM
Today we began by going outside and practicing our distance measurements. Although we are improving in comparison to the days previous there is definitely still room for improvement. We then began our day of surveying. Although initially there weren’t many animals for us to record we were able to begin identifying birds with our team facilitator which made the time of surveying far more interesting. Luckily however our time of few sightings was brief. Upon approaching the Lighthouse Dubh Artach we were graced with the presence of a few seals which was gratefully received by the whole crew. As we left Dubh Artach some of the volunteers were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a passing Minke whale, although not all the crew saw the Minke it definitely boosted team moral as we scanned the seas with a new found enthusiasm. Sadly the sightings again dropped until the end of the day where we saw numerous seals and porpoises. We were all so excited about the sightings it was difficult to record them all and was far more difficult than anticipated. We anchored in between Islay and Nave. We were given a presentation on the birds and boats we were likely to encounter and from tomorrow onward we will begin recording this data as well as the sightings of marine animals. After dinner we went out on the tender (Cecelia) and saw a group of seals. We were able to make up for the lack of sightings for some of the crew by seeing the seals. We then went to Nave and climbed to the top of the hill on the island. Whilst on the top of the hill we were able to watch a beautiful sun set and as the sun was beginning to fall below the horizon we saw a slight green tinge which we were informed by the skipper can sometimes be seen as a flash of green.
Monday 11th July 2011
Distance travelled: 35.5NM
Today we had 4 sightings of porpoise, 2 common seals, 2 grey seals and 2 unidentified seals. We then continued surveying the minke whale recording its movements and taking lots of photographs to ensure a reliable picture used for photo identification. We went ashore to Lunga Island where we encountered a mass of puffins, razorbills and guillemots. Not only did we see the adults but also the chicks which upon seeing we were provided with plenty of information on the species and each species behaviour. The only downside was that it smelt really bad. We left the island and continued surveying throughout the afternoon. Although the sightings of marine mammals were low we were able to apply the knowledge of birds we gained from the island in a more practical situation. We then anchored between Erraid and Mull in a calm spot where it was even possible to see the sea floor, not particularly exciting for us but the skipper and the first mate showed enough excitement for the entire crew. At dusk we decided to go explore on the tender. We saw plenty of seals along our journey; sadly we weren’t recording as the data would have been extremely useful. We ended up exploring a small island called Eilean Dubh (Bob island as we prefer to call it) where we scaled the steep heathery slope giving us a fantastic view of the surrounding area as well as Silurian.