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.
Wednesday 20th June 2012
Anchorage: Loch Leurbost
Distance travelled: 36.7NM
On our first day at sea, after Olivia gave a presentation on the marine biodiversity in the study area, we completed a half day survey; we had good conditions, with calm seas, sunny weather and overall good sighting conditions. Early in the survey, we spotted a minke whale just off of Stornoway. We followed it for a wee while for photo identification. We left the minke whale to its feeding and sailed up to Tiumpan Head and then travelled south again. Common dolphins were detected with the hydrophone; we saw a grey seal and a harbour porpoise; and then an hour later we had our visual sighting of the common dolphins. There was over 10 bow-riding the wake at the bow of the boat for 15 minutes. Just an hour later, another sighting of common dolphins was called in. This time, the dolphins, instead of bow riding, performed acrobatics, leaping through the air for all of us to see. We spent the first night at Leurbost, a lovely and very calm bay. The quality and quantity of food on the first day were excellent; Jansene prepared a delicious Alfredo pasta dish with a broccoli and chick pea salad. Emma managed to whip up an amazing strawberry cheese cake for dessert. This was definitely a fantastic start to the expedition.
Sunday 17th June 2012
Anchorage: Stornoway pier, again?! Distance travelled: 37.8NM
The winds dropped and the sun came out for a short while; not to worry, the overcast sky improved sighting conditions dramatically in comparison to the previous day. The previous night we lay at anchor in south harbour on Scalplay, the wind changed direction, flattening the waves enough to produce a smooth swell. Today our voyage took us North again towards Stornoway, through the mythical passage between the Shiants known as the ‘Blue Men' where mermen would ask Skippers riddles, and if the Skipper failed to answer, his boat would be taken. We passed on through, with no sign of these infamous mermen. Not long after passing the Blue Men, the Skipper almost couldn't hide his excitement when he realised one of the volunteers (who were not on the mast) spotted a pod of common dolphins which remained with Silurian for around 2 hours visually, whilst the dolphins were present for almost 3 hours on the hydrophone. Just when we didn't think things could get any better, a giant basking shark popped up in front of the boat, completely unfazed by our presence. The shark carried on his way, and we saw the sheer size of the shark next to the boat. Pictures were snapped before it disappeared below the waves. The volunteers listened to the whistles made by the dolphins, heard in real time as the sighting took place. The return trip to Stornoway after the spectacular dolphin sighting seemed uneventful. That is, until Laken climbed the mast and lost her cap to the sea. Silurian took on a brave venture to rescue the overboard cap (man overboard drills!) and the cap was eventually rescued, then tied to a box to ensure it did not escape again. Not long after the rescue, Olivia in a very nonchalant manner mentioned a minke whale sighting just below a large number of gannets assaulting a shoal of fish. Silurian went over to investigate and we remained with the minke for at least half an hour until we left it to enjoy the rich feeding, just outside Stornoway harbour. Upon our return to the harbour, tasks were set to clean the boat ready for disembarkation tomorrow. This will be the last blog from this trip; it was a brilliant week, far from uneventful despite our stationary conditions for most of the week. Today we had a week's share of sightings in one short day, one which passed all too quickly.
Saturday 16th June 2012
Anchorage: South harbour, Scalpay
Distance travelled: 40.5NM!!!
We decided to set off early this morning, to make the most of our newly-repaired engine. After a hearty breakfast we set sail at about 8AM, out into the Minch, hugging the lee of the shore for some protection from the swell. However while running with the wind we were getting surfing lessons from our skipper. After an initial south-west heading, sightings were in short supply, but we were all grateful to be out at sea. We changed course, heading for the Shiants, to the south-east, and anchored there for a delicious pasta lunch. Fully refuelled and with a brownie in hand for the road, we set sail once more, in a more easterly direction. We spotted many a puffin - which make the Shiants their home, along with both sea and golden eagles and Britain's last colony of black rats. 2 hours of sailing, lovely, and a fair few sea shanties; not so lovely, followed. No sightings, but we did detect 19 harbour porpoise echolocation click trains and several common dolphin whistles and clicks with the hydrophone! Dinner was ably cooked by the skipper - a Scottish classic: haggis, neeps and tatties. Vegetarians were not denied a taste; a meat-free haggis was also served; followed by a scrumptious apple and raisin crumble made by Swee and Bill. Forecasts predict a calmer day tomorrow, fingers crossed! We're all anticipating a number of great sightings (blue whales please)!
Friday 15th June 2012
Distance travelled: 0NM
In the morning, Olivia presented exciting results from past research collected by HWDT. Afterwards, we quietly played card games while engineers worked on the Silurian. Terrestrial activities were scheduled for the day, and by half an hour of riding the mini bus, we received a call from Emma playing the relieving sound of the Silurian's fixed engine! We visited the RSPB reserve to search for the red-necked phalarope, a sea bird that spends only a few weeks on land to breed and the remaining time at sea. Following, we faced strong winds at the Butt of Lewis (no one blew away). Several birds were nesting among the high cliffs and a grey seal was spotted. While heading home, we savored Emma's homemade brownies, and for dinner, Bill and Sarah cooked sausage and mash. Ending the night, we played Bananagram and ____Head, which have become part of our daily routine activities (competition runs high amongst the crew). Everyone hit the sack earlier than usual, excited to start the next day at sea!