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.
Monday 21st May 2012
Anchorage: Tobermory Harbour
56˚N 37.192N, 006°03.941’W
birds ruled the waves on our final day of adventuring around the Hebrides;
puffins, guillemots and razorbills all gathered in numbers on our passage from
Canna back to Mull. The biggest flock of the day though were the shearwaters;
two hours or so from the harbour at Tobermory, the seas suddenly turned mottled
brown and white as 500 or so of the elegant birds rode the waves close to their
nesting ground on Rum. With calmer weather guiding us through, we were able to
resume ordinary duties, which included regular stints on the hydrophone;
allowing us to hear a series of common dolphin whistles in addition to the
usual cacophony of snapping shrimp. In spite of the sadness of returning to
Tobermory, the clouds parted and the sun welcomed us back to port and the
crushing inevitability of cleaning Silurian top to tail. With Johnson and
Theresa scrubbing the deck and Andy, Hazel, Alison and Dan ensuring below deck
was spick and span, a daunting job was soon behind us. The Arms provided a filling well earnt meal with a drink to wash down some wonderful reminiscing of days gone by...
distance travelled over whole trip: 204.4 nautical miles
wind: Force 6
From the crew: "thankyou all on board...what a wonderful bunch."
Sunday 20th May 2012
Anchorage: Isle of Canna
57°0 4.250N 006°27.951’W
was a day of minor glimpses, high seas and botanical rambling. Setting sail
from Vatersay, yesterday’s calm waters now brooding and unsettled, we charted a
course across the Sea of the Hebrides to
Canna. With the usual spotting and recording duties suspended because of the
weather, the team passed the wave-riding hours with a series of intellectual
discussions (e.g. “What superhero would you be and why?”) as well as some
hearty group renditions of “The Bare Necessities” and (of course) “Under the
Sea”. Helped along the final stretch by a brief common dolphin encounter and a
minke sighting, we arrived in Canna harbour by late afternoon and headed ashore to spend
the evening among the wildflowers of Sanday, taking in a 1,300 year old Celtic
cross as well as the eerie ruined prison of Coroghon Castle. With a final
minke sighting to the west, we headed back to Silurian for an indulgent, steaming
pot of sausage casserole. Went to bed with tired feet and satisfied tummies.
Saturday 19th May 2012
woke up to sunny skies in Loch Skiport and we set off in calm seas and high
spirits. Heading out across the near-glassy surface of the Minch,
we spent the morning scanning the horizon and taking the first tentative scrambles
up to the crows nest. Hazel was the first to climb up and was lucky enough to
be up at a great vantage point for our first sighting; three white-beaked
dolphins just off the starboard side, the first of the season, spotted by
Alison. Less inquisitive than their common cousins, the dolphins soon gave us
the slip. Theresa was next to scale the rigging and the white-beaks were
spotted once again. After another couple of hours of glorious weather and quiet
seas, Johnson was in the crows nest when Hazel spotted the next sighting; a
confirmed minke whale. We waited patiently for it to appear again and another
individual soon surfaced 150m away from the boat giving us a great view of its
back and dorsal fin. Alison was next into the crows nest, putting us all to
shame, as she climbed it effortlessly. We soon anchored in the beautiful
Vatersay- leaving Dan stranded up the crows nest- with white sandy beaches and
crystal clear waters. Conquering our initial fears (both of the water
temperature and Dan’s violently coloured swimming trunks), we braved the
Atlantic facing side of the island for a bracing, invigorating dip. Feeling the
sand between our toes we all hurled ourselves into the freezing water, the
loudest of the girlish screams coming from the unlikely source of Johnson. We
soon warmed up and enjoyed the perfect waters and went for a swim. We then
warmed up back on board and enjoyed a delicious cottage pie courtesy of Dan.
Later ensued a hilarious game of articulate with some worrying answers from Alison.
Friday 18th May 2012
Skipport, South Uist
up refreshed after a tough day of rough seas yesterday, this morning was a
pleasant surprise, with the sun shining and the seas fairly calm. Despite an
initial bearing towards Skye, the fair weather and ideal sighting conditions
allowed for a change of course, heading westward across the Little Minch
towards South Uist and the Outer Hebrides. Optimistic about sightings, the crew
and volunteers were rewarded early on with a group of boisterous, bow-riding
common dolphins. After ensuring mast volunteer Dan had regained his footing,
lost in excitement, the team gathered eagerly on the bow, wildly snapping with
their cameras, as the dolphins obliged with elaborate shows of leaping across
the waves and diving underneath the boat. After 25 minutes, they became bored
with our boat and left us to continue on towards South Uist. Later on, as the
seas became choppier and the swell grew, keen cetacean spotter Andy – being
continually doused in spray, his face increasingly buried beneath a layer of
salt – broke the deadlock and spied a second, larger group of common dolphins.
This time, nine dolphins - including two calves - decided to bow ride and swim
with the waves. At 5pm, after two visual sightings of common dolphins, an
additional two acoustic detections of common dolphins and 13 acoustic
detections of harbour porpoise we anchored in Loch Skipport where we got to go
ashore and explore the island.