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.
Thursday 14th June 2012
Distance travelled: 0NM
We started the day off with long, warm showers in a sports centre. Afterwards, Bill, Sarah, Swee and Allison went to An Lantair, an art gallery. There was one unique piece that stood out, displaying a reflective projection of sea images. Below the projection, viewers dropped a stone into a tub of stones and water creating ripples that distorted the projection. They almost looked like jellyfish! Back at the boat, we played team building games. Teams tied figure-8 knots with only one hand and a utensil. Also, we lowered a rod to the ground using only the backs of our index fingers while maintaining contact with the rod. Surprisingly, it was not easy! The games were fun and challenging. You should try them at home! Tim, a local of Stornoway, took us for a stroll around the Lewis Castle. Fairy houses were scattered along the trail. On the way back to the Silurian, there were two sightings of humongous grey seals in the harbour and a wildfire very close to where we were hiking. Following the hike, volunteers researched and presented information about a chosen marine species, including the snow petrel, luminescent jellyfish, fur seal, baiji, vaquita, and white-beaked dolphin. Moussaka, deliciously created by Laken, was served for dinner. To end the night, we went to McNeil’s pub, for tasty Tennents and pleasant open-mic music.
Wednesday 13th June 2012
Distance travelled: 16NM
This morning the Skipper treated us to home-made pancakes with a variety of toppings including kiwi, bananas and Nutella. During breakfast we finally spotted the enigmatic pink seagull that has been the talk of Stornoway harbour! This gave us high hopes for the day when we set off for Tiumpan Head to do a land based survey of boats, cetaceans and seabirds which included fulmars, guillemots, skuas and many more. We had to retreat to the mini bus when the rain finally caught up with us and so instead we made way for Bayble bay, which had a selection of sandy beaches and rocky shore lines to explore. The rock pools were full of life, with hermit crabs, anemones and various other interesting critters. The sandy beaches contrasted wonderfully with the deep blue green colours of the Mediterranean coloured water (if only it was that warm!). Bill thought he had spotted a basking shark, but it was too far away for us to confirm, and later proved to be a marker buoy (Basking boy) as named by various volunteers. After which we made our way for the boat for a delicious lunch courtesy of Emma, of Macaroni Cheese.
Our afternoon tour of the Island by the Skipper first began with a trip to Black House Village, which is nestled in a small rocky cove. The houses were estimated to be from around 18th century with traditional thatched roofs and thick raw stone walls, and the village had a small museum. After a wander around the charming little village and the beach, we set off for the Calanais Standing stones on the west side of Lewis. “More impressive than Stonehenge” was mentioned on more than one occasion…
We then made our way towards Loch Roag where we were to venture aboard one of the SeaTrek RIB’s, Conachair. We motored out of West Loch Roag (at 15 knots!) into Loch Roag Beag (at 20 knots!!) and then around Pabbay Mor and Pabay Beag (at 25 knots!!!) and into a beautiful lagoon. We had a wildlife and geological magic mystery tour. There were a lot of black guillemots, herons, northern divers, buzzards and many other birds to see, not to mention the amazing geological natural arches and the deep caves which were all incredibly impressive! The sky was blue, the sun shining and the water was crystal clear. Before returning to Silurian the Skipper stopped off to show us his favourite view on the Island, which was again another truly spectacular sight. We returned to the boat for a supper of Korma cooked by Shaun and Patrick, which proved to taste as good as the smell.
Tuesday 12th June 2012
Anchorage: Tied up alongside Stornoway pier
Distance travelled: 0?
The day began with a walk around Stornoway to allow the engineers a chance to take a look at the engine. After an unsuccessful attempt to find the local watermill, we stopped for a delicious cup of coffee at a little café called "The Sawmill". This building had once been a distillery. We finally reached the local museum (our original destination) after several unplanned excursions into book shops. The museum itself was small, but densely packed with information on the history of Lewis, from the earliest known settlers to the Vikings and to more recent history. Hnefetafel, a bizarrely named Viking variation on chess, was featured in the exhibition. A board was set out in the museum, ready for any willing participants to pit their wits against each other. To say the games were competitive would be an understatement. Helmets (plastic, complete with horns) were donned and swords (wooden) were drawn. The curator struck up conversation, telling us of an encounter with a sperm whale and an unidentified great whale. Unfortunately, we were unable to identify it for him from his description. Upon our return to the boat, we were served a fantastic lunch of homemade tomato soup and were given our brief for the afternoon's activities. We split into two teams to debate the pros and cons of salmon fisheries. Many of the participants showed their true colours for the first time here. Tensions were high, and friendships were tested. Luckily, when the panel decided that the "For" team were the victors (they cheated!) the atmosphere returned to normal. Swee and Allison prepared Mexican burritos (which were delicious!), and for dessert, we had strawberries and cream. To end the night, we played "Who am I?" a cetacean identification game followed by some card games. In summary, despite not being able to survey at sea, it was an enjoyable day.
Monday 11th June 2012
Anchorage: Tied up alongside Stornoway pier
Distance travelled: 16.2NM
The sun was feeling deceptive this morning as we arose for breakfast at 8am. With high hopes for sightings we were briefed with all the information on the various species we may come across. The subject of “ideal sightings” came up, with more than a few odd requests, not least a white killer whale being mentioned and a narwhal ‘the Unicorn of the sea’. A quick run to Tesco in Stornoway in order to gather “supplies” soon followed. We hurried back to the boat, setting off at 1 o’clock; armed with warm water proofs (essential) and lifejackets. We left the pier with the intention of heading to Tiumpan Head to turn back under sail into Loch Leurbost. A turbulent swell made it slightly challenging for some of us to find our sea legs, however just twenty minutes after setting off there was a sighting of a minke whale just outside Stornoway harbour by Bill and Shaun. Half an hour later, there were further sightings of common dolphins and Risso’s dolphins in the distance. As lunch began to be served there was a slight engine malfunction. But no worries, the lifeboat turned up to tow us back to the safety of Stornoway pier. Spirits were high and those of us at the mast felt that we were almost on a giant surf board. Morale kept us going during the tow; we all sat at the back of the boat playing marine animal alphabet games to entertain ourselves. Despite all the sightings Paddy and Laken were left without seeing a single cetacean. Fortunately the boat should once again be “shipshape” in the morning and ready for a new suite of sightings, hopefully seen by Paddy and Laken! A delicious curry for tea was prepared for us; courtesy of Bill, Sarah and Swee. The evening is now free, with the possibility of seeing the northern lights… but it might not get dark enough this far north!