Posted by: orcaweb | April 24, 2018

Beautiful calm seas make for great spotting conditions!

Hello everyone!

We had the most amazing weather for my first week on board the KING Seaways. The sea was calm, the sun was out and the mist kept its distance i.e. brilliant spotting conditions.

Beautiful calm seas dominated the week

I had many passengers keeping me company during deck watches as well as in the wildlife centre, keeping a lookout for anything that might pop up. They were rewarded with sightings of seals and harbour porpoises especially coming into and leaving the River Tyne, approaching Newcastle. A crew member even reported 50-100 dolphins as we were passing the break water!

The enthusiastic Beers family. Mom Morag braced the cold for both the evening and morning watch to appreciate the amazing conditions.

The birds did not let us forget about them. In the calm, still evenings we could hear the terns call, sometimes even before we saw them. We were also lucky to see an impressive diving display of a gannet, announcing that there were fish to be had. The guillemots and razorbills were many of the passengers’ favourites as they bobbed on the water only to dive as the ship came closer.

We even spotted one of our sister ships, the Primula Seaways of DFDS as it ferried cargo on the North Sea.

The DFDS Primula Seaways

The Primula is known as a Ro-Ro ship as it is designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars and trucks that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle. Ro-Ro is an acronym of roll-on/roll-off which is different from the Lo-lo ship (lift-on/lift-off) that uses a crane to load cargo on and off the ship.

Here’s holding thumbs for another week of calm seas and great sightings. Come back in a week when I will update you on our sightings of the North Sea.


Ingrid – North Sea Wildlife Officer


ORCA Wildlife Officer, North Sea


Posted by: orcaweb | April 16, 2018

First Minke whale of the season!

Hey everyone!

My first shift on board the DFDS King Seaways is already coming to end! It has been an exciting 2 weeks, with stormy days, extremely misty days and some amazing sunny days, great for spotting wildlife! And spotting wildlife we did! We have seem so many harbour porpoises, some grey seals, even some (possible) white-beaked dolphins and our first whale of the season! Most likely a Minke whale!

Misty sunset in the North Sea

Passengers have been greatly enjoying our new wildlife center, with lots of children joining in our wildlife activities, and many enjoying our North Sea wildlife presentation and continuously growing amount of educative decor. Excitingly I also got to sign up our first new ORCA member of the season!

The weather has become our friend this last week, with only some mist now and again. This resulted in many harbour porpoise sightings, and of course loads of sea birds! The 14th of April was particularly memorable, as after returning to the wildlife center from a quiet deck watch, passengers and myself were running around from window to window, as dolphins (possibly white-beaked dolphins), porpoises and even our first minke whale started appearing in all directions! Luckily our new wildlife center gives us great views in multiple directions, and we all got to enjoy the cetacean sightings. Unfortunately we lost the sunlight and could no longer spot any wildlife.

I am looking forward to many more sightings this season with more great weather! Especially more minke whales! And continue to help passengers spot these amazing animals!

Kelly de Vries –  ORCA Wildlife Officer, North Sea



Posted by: orcaweb | April 12, 2018

From storm to sunshine and lots of porpoises!

Hello everyone!

We unfortunately started off the week with some bad weather. This resulted in no whale or dolphin sightings for the first few days.

However, this left lots of time to be spend with the many passengers that came to visit the ORCA Wildlife Lounge. There was lots of attention for our new decor, which left some passengers surprised by how much amazing wildlife we see in the North Sea from aboard the DFDS King Seaways! Many kids also enjoyed the inside wildlife activities including our new quiz, allowing them to run around the wildlife lounge on the hunt for all the answers!


Our fantastic new map in the wildlife centre

Fortunately the weather changed on Saturday, and with it came some sightings!

Within minutes of the first deck watch during calm waters the harbour porpoises started to appear from all directions! I wasn’t alone out on deck, as I had some great little helpers, Georgina and Luke, true Wildlife Officers in the making! These two were great at spotting the animals, even far in the distance! In-between all the porpoise sightings, we were also lucky enough to be greeted by a grey seal that popped up right next to the ship! These two troopers even joined me out on the morning deck watch where we were once again greeted by more porpoises!


Georgina and Luke helping me spot porpoises in a perfect sea state

Lots of passengers joined me out on deck watches as the nice weather continued, with more porpoise sightings and two dolphin sightings!! most likely a white-beaked dolphin and a bottlenose dolphin!  The bottlenose dolphin was seen completely leaping out of the water over four times before disappearing beyond the horizon. In-between sightings, passengers shared their great whale and dolphin stories, with lots of them giving me some great tips on where to go see them next!

All in all it has been a pretty good week and I am looking forward to seeing more passengers in the ORCA wildlife lounge and of course many more sightings!


Kelly De Vries – ORCA Wildlife Officer

Kelly de Vries
ORCA Wildlife Officer
DFDS King Seaways


Posted by: orcaweb | April 3, 2018

First dolphin of the season!

Hello all,

We are now on our second week on board the DFDS King Seaways already – time is flying!

Tuesday morning was rainy and even birds weren’t very eager to show themselves. However, later that day, an engaged crowd showed up at the presentation including several children and 9 people then followed me out on deck!


Eager eyes out on deck!

One young trooper named Jesse (pictured in the middle, above) stayed with me in the cold for the whole deck watch, which lasted over an hour. Why? Whales are his favourite animals! My new wildlife assistant and bird connoisseur Rinke (pictured left) made the deck watch highly amusing with his wide knowledge of birds, England and its coastline and even Robin Hood. In the end, we saw countless birds, one grey seal and one harbour porpoise.  It was a fun and educative watch with wonderful people.

Jesse was so determined to see his very first whale that on Wednesday morning he actually skipped breakfast and joined me on the Observation Deck for the entire deck watch once again! Rinke later joined us. An hour went by in which we hardly even saw any birds. But the moment we came close to the Ijmuiden port, 3 porpoise appeared!  One so close to the boat that Jesse, his family who had since joined to bring him some breakfast and Rinke could all get a proper look at the smallest cetacean in our waters.  In the end, their effort payed off and they were delighted to have seen a porpoise and loved the idea of being featured on our blog.  Jesse’s little sister Janna didn’t want to miss out of course and posed for the picture, too!

That night, the seats for our ‘Wildlife of the North Sea’ presentation were filled with a, once again, engaged crowd, asking questions and being interested even still after the talk.  In the rain and icy winds, I was joined by a wonderful lady who was part of an environmental youth group in her homeland back in the Caribbean that arranged beach clean ups and we had an interesting chat about the threats to whales and dolphins and marine litter.

Thursday evening marked the first time that people showed up for the evening lecture about threats to marine mammals! 14 concerned passengers wanted to hear what they could do to help our environment and the beautiful creatures living in it. What that was? Say no to whale meat, even if it’s just to ‘ try it once’, when talking about plastics reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse. This is extremely important since marine litter kills over 100,000 marine mammals every single year. And of course, donate to charities such as ORCA who conduct vital research to better understand cetaceans and their ecology.

To start the weekend off properly, on the cold and windy Saturday morning watch, we saw our first dolphin of the season! I’m rather sure it was a bottlenose dolphin but it only showed itself so briefly that I can’t be 100% certain. Luckily some passengers were out on deck with me and got to enjoy this wonderful experience!

A question I’ve been getting a lot this week is which, and how many ‘fish’ I usually see. The answer is ‘none’ ! The occasional shark might pop up this season but besides that, all the animals we look out for are mammals (besides the birds of course). Fish have no need of getting up to the surface, since they can breathe underwater. However, our marine mammals have to come up every once in a while. Luckily for us, otherwise it would be even harder to spot them!

Sunday morning we spotted one grey seal and later on, two harbour porpoise right at the port of Ijmuiden.

The meet and greet is one of my favourite times of day. You get to meet the passengers, get an estimate of your crowd for that evening and you get to interact with the other great crew members. I always bring along our mascot: Harry the harbour porpoise to catch people’s attention. Especially children are quick to spot him. But besides the children, the whole crew also love harry. He gets hugged, petted, taken out for a stroll or dance quite frequently but sometimes, he also get stolen or hidden. I can’t let poor harry out of my sight, but then again, who could blame them? Look how cute he is!

And now I hand over to Kelly for her first two weeks on board!

– Serena – North Sea Wildlife Officer


Harry the harbour porpoise – the North Sea mascot!

Posted by: orcaweb | March 26, 2018

Launch of the 2018 Wildlife Officer Season

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the first blog of the 2018 Wildlife Officer Season!  The North Sea Wildlife Officer programme has finally started, after months of anticipation.

On board the DFDS KING Seaways this spring and summer, you will find myself, Serena Le Double and Kelly De Vries, the new ORCA Wildlife Officers.

Kelly Serena North Sea WOs 2018

2018 North Sea ORCA Wildlife Officers – Serena le Double (left) and Kelly de Vries (right)

Wildlife officer Kelly and I boarded in Ijmuiden on Tuesday, and travelled to Newcastle on our first crossing of the year.  We familiarised ourselves with the ship and got a little lost…but now at least we know our way around the ship!

As you might have heard, the ORCA Wildlife Centre has been moved and therefore over the last few months, work has been going on to completely renew the new centre.  We still have a bit of work to do but are super excited about the progress we have made so far.  This year, you will find the ORCA Wildlife Centre at the front of the ship, between decks 7 and 8.

The observation deck, which is also at the front of the ship right above the new Wildlife Centre at is also getting upgraded with a fresh layer of paint so we will temporarily be conducting our deck watches a bit higher up on deck 10.

On Wednesday, Anna from ORCA boarded the KING Seaways in Newcastle and our Wildlife Officer training commenced.  In the evening, we met the crew, and talked about the duties and responsibilities of being a Wildlife Officer, as well as learning more about the whales, dolphins and other marine wildlife of the North Sea.  Unfortunately, strong winds and rain stopped our first deck watch of the year, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.

We were lucky enough to be invited to an art launch in Ijmuiden on Thursday.  Last summer, the Dutch DFDS team sponsored the Boskalis beach clean, and the ORCA Wildlife Officers took part in this fantastic event.  Artist Klasiena Soepboer has used many of the plastic bottle caps and other plastic items collected to create fantastic intricate clay sculptures moulded to look like bleached corals, which gained their colours from the plastic within, since, as Klasiena stated “plastic is becoming the dominant colour of our ocean”.  You can see these beautiful creations in Ijmuiden Port.

Colours of the sea 10 small

Klasiena Soepboer’s ‘Colours of the Sea’


Colours of the sea1 small

Klasiena Soepboer’s ‘Colours of the Sea’

Colours of the sea7 small

Klasiena Soepboer’s ‘Colours of the Sea’


Serena and Kelly in Ijmuiden Port at the Art Launch Event

Once we had made some great progress with re-designing the ORCA Centre, we did an announcement over the tannoy to inform passengers all about our activities for the evening.  We had a great turnout at our first presentation of the season with over 25 passengers attending the talk – a great start!

On Friday evening, most seats were taken for my first time presenting the ‘Introduction to North Sea Wildlife’ talk.

On Friday evening, as well as Saturday morning, Kelly and I had calm seas on the deck watches but unfortunately didn’t get to see our wonderful cetaceans just yet! We were however accompanied by an arrange of sea birds such as gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes and a greater black backed gull!

On Saturday, Kelly disembarked from her training period so I had to start getting used to running the ORCA activities by myself! Luckily in the evening we had a great turn up for the presentation and I even got a brief visit from the first two harbour porpoise of the North Sea Wildlife Officer season.


North Sea Sunset


Sunday, I had the privilege of witnessing both an amazing sunrise and sunset, the latter accompanied by another two harbour porpoise! When I got back to the centre, a family with two young children were eager to hear all the information I could give about our artefacts (dolphin and porpoise skulls and sperm whale teeth) and whale sizes. You are never too young to be passionate about the ocean and to learn more.


Serena (with a bottlenose dolphin skull) and Kelly (with a sperm whale tooth) in the ORCA Wildlife Centre

But Monday morning has been the best deck watch so far, with sunshine, smooth water and SEVEN harbour porpoise over the span of just 10 minutes! It was amazing.

Please check in regularly to find out what adventures we experience on the North Sea!

Serena – ORCA Wildlife Officer, North Sea

To find out more about ORCA’s work and how you can support us, please visit our website


I really can’t believe that this day has come, and I have to say goodbye to our lovely wildlife centre on board the DFDS King Seaways, to the amazing North Sea – which can range between lovely and quite uncomfortably stormy – to all the fantastic wildlife that’s flying above and swimming below, to the lovely crew on board, my fellow Wildlife Officer Lucy and our colleagues in the office and of course to all the great passengers and readers that have joined our journey these past few months.

These past few days on board have been a mixture of ‘business as usual’ and slowly realising that the end of the season is approaching quickly, especially as I slowly had to remove things from our beautiful wildlife centre to safely store away in our absence over the winter. I feel sad that our programme on board is now finished, but I’m also really grateful and happy about all the great experiences these past few months have brought.


Stunning view on the observation deck

In total this season we have seen nearly 400 marine mammals. Our most commonly seen species was the harbour porpoise with about 243 individuals sighted. This is followed by 58 white-beaked dolphins and 34 seals. We spotted 10 marvellous minke whales and 3 bottlenose dolphins. The rest is made up of ‘other’ recorded sightings, so that means that we didn’t see enough of the animal to accurately identify it to species level. What a fantastic season!

Regarding my wildlife sightings highlights, I definitely have to name my first ever spotted minke whale here in the North Sea in just absolutely perfect, calm conditions.

This highlight is followed closely by a pod of white-beaked dolphins with one in the group leaping clear of the water several times in a row, putting on a spectacular show for me and the passengers who were watching. And of course not to forget all the lovely harbour porpoise sightings, especially in calm waters, when you could see them surfacing with their characteristic rolling swimming motion.

Even if we weren’t always lucky enough to spot whales, dolphins or porpoises, all the lovely birds were our loyal companions. We could observe gannets, guillemots, puffins, razorbills, cormorants, great skuas, different gull and tern species and many more. Our all-time favourite were the beautiful gannets, soaring in the sky or plunge-diving to catch their fish. Another season highlight for both Lucy and me were our visits to the Farne Islands, where we could marvel at some amazing bird life!

Besides our observations out on deck, which Lucy and I always enjoyed very much (most of the times even when it was really cold and windy), we welcomed a lot of amazing passengers into our wildlife centre, where we delivered talks and lectures, children’s activities and just chatted to people about the wonderful wildlife we have here on our doorstep! In total, we engaged with nearly 23,000 passengers from more than 20 different countries! We were also involved with the local community in North Shields and run events and visits for school and university groups here on board. During the summer months, we had four lovely Wildlife Officer Placements, who did an amazing job at helping us with all our people engagement activities. A huge thanks to you again!

It really has been an amazing experience to run the Wildlife Officer programme on board the King Seaways. I learned so much about the wildlife here in the North Sea and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many nice passengers that are really interested in nature and seeking ways how to protect it. I absolutely loved doing both the surveys out on deck and giving the presentations in the ORCA wildlife centre – which is quite amazing, if I think back to my school days; then I never would have thought that I would ever enjoy public speaking!

Both Lucy and I would like to thank all the lovely crew on board, who made our stay here that much more enjoyable. They are probably the hardest-working people we have ever met. We wish you all the best and hopefully we’ll see each other again soon! Also a huge thank you to the fabulous ORCA team in the head office and DFDS, who have always supported us here up in the North and who made our wonderful North Sea experience possible. And of course we are grateful for all the fantastic passengers that joined our activities and for you, the readers of this blog, for taking an interest.

Me & Julia

Wildlife Officers Julia & Lucy ready to spot some whales and dolphins

So now, it is really time to say goodbye. Thanks everyone for making these past six month an unforgettable experience. We are sad to leave now, but wish all the best to ORCA and this wonderful programme. It was absolutely great being a part of it! Looking forward to seeing what next Wildlife Officer season will bring, so do check back in next year again, in March 2018!

All the best,


Posted by: orcaweb | September 25, 2017

A sea of clouds and rainbows

Hello everyone and welcome back to our weekly blog telling you all about our Wildlife Officer programme on board the DFDS King Seaways. On 18th September I embarked for my last shift on board as (unbelievably!) our ORCA wildlife season will finish on 29th September, so this time I’m here for just a bit under two weeks.

I really can’t believe it’s the end of the season. The last six months have absolutely flown by. It’s been absolutely great running the Wildlife Officer programme on board, meeting all the wonderful passengers and of course spotting all of this amazing wildlife. But I don’t want to wrap up the season just yet, as I will first tell you about this week on board and you’ll get another ‘farewell’ – blog from me at the end of this week.

So how was my week? It started with quite calm waters, but no sightings. Tuesday morning there were a lot of diving gannets, which are always great to observe. What was the most striking feeling of this day’s morning deck watch sailing towards Newcastle though, was that I was feeling horribly cold. I thought that even during summer it has always been fairly cold and windy out on deck and that there wasn’t too much of a difference to the beginning of the season in March. At least I didn’t really change the number of layers of clothing I was wearing. But that day I realised how wrong I was and that it’s starting to get much colder again. I probably should be wearing some more layers.


What would a blog be without a photo of a gannet?

Another thing that made the past few deck watches a bit difficult – next to the wintery weather – was that the light actually began to fade in the evening. With the sunset being around 7:30 already it’s been quite hard to watch for a full hour. The benefit of this was of course being able to actually watch some of these beautiful sunsets. However that’s only possible when we leave the Ijmuiden side of our crossing as it’s only then that we’re facing west with the bow of the ship where our observation deck is located.


Stunning sunset over the North Sea

With the first few deck watches of last week being quite uneventful, I was in for a nice surprise on Thursday evening. The sea was pretty calm with just small wavelets. Because of these calm waters I immediately noticed a few splashes quite far away. As there was no white water to be seen anywhere at all, I knew these splashes had to be an indication of some animals. Indeed, I was able to identify a white-beaked dolphin breaking the water surface a couple of times as it went on its way. While I was busy recording all the information about this sighting, two stunning rainbows were building up in the sky. When I looked up from our data logger, I saw four beautiful parts of these two rainbows, one on each end of the arch. One of them was particular bright and big and seemed to be so near, the colours seemed to glow and shine very intensively. I’ve never seen a rainbow like this before. It was really a stunning sight. Shortly thereafter I saw another group of dolphins, splashing about in the distance, and sometime later on a harbour porpoise quite close to the ship. So this was really a marvellous deck watch!


A bright glowing rainbow over the North Sea

What has always fascinated me these past few months were the different colours of the sea and the sky. It’s amazing how much that can change the whole atmosphere. Sometimes I really wondered if it was still the same sea I was travelling on as it could look so utterly different from just a few hours and sometimes even minutes before. You get colours ranging from deep marine blue, blue-greenish, turquoise, dull grey to shining silvery colours – with the whole sea looking just like liquid silver. And then of course if you have a flat or near flat sea surface, a beautiful evening sky reflected in the water can transform the whole scenery just into something magical.


Beautiful evening sky – a fantastic view out on the observation deck

Saturday brought some special visitors on board, as one of the volunteer ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor teams embarked for its last survey of this season. It’s always really nice to meet and chat to these volunteers, as usually they have a lot of fascinating wildlife and life stories to tell you about. While I saw one unidentified dolphin Saturday morning, neither the survey team nor I had any sighting during the evening nor on Sunday.

The last few days I welcomed a lot of Dutch and German speaking visitors. On one occasion I presented our main talk about the wildlife of the North Sea in Dutch. Especially the children were happy about this, as they could ask me any questions themselves, without needing a translator. On Sunday evening I started to deliver a German presentation, but had to switch back to English, as there were a few more English speaking people joining. It’s no problem at all though, if you’re not able to follow everything in English, as we do have Dutch and German handouts on board to follow the presentations in the ORCA centre.


A rather pale sun disappearing into the fog

So now it’s only a couple of more days before the end of this year’s wildlife season on board. I’ll cherish these last few days on board and maybe I can tell you about a few more fantastic sightings in our last blog. So join us in a couple of days to get a final summary of this year’s wildlife season and a heartfelt goodbye from myself!


Posted by: orcaweb | September 19, 2017

It’s the final count down……

I find myself in my final full week working on-board the DFDS King Seaways. I can’t say it began with the greatest start, heavy sea states, sideways rain and icy cold winds made deck watches rather challenging this week. On a few occasions the deck was shut due to a heavy swell and high winds and the ‘white horses’ were consistent in their gallop.


Dramatic lighting of the autumnal North Sea

When the weather is less than desirable it is always the birds of the North Sea that keep our faith in its wildlife! The great skuas seemed to have increased in number, always a favourite addition to any deck watch, even in the constant rain these bulky birds pursue the meals of other unsuspecting sea birds.


A great skua

With all this rain it was inevitable that we would see rainbows and what a treat they were. One day we even sailed straight underneath the full arch of a brilliant bow! So bright one moment and then quickly fading away into the misty damp air. With the bad weather I’ve also had time to notice the wonderful colours of winter. The thick clouds and changing light cause amazing displays. Blues, violets and purples making the cold air feel even colder and then autumnal golden yellows and oranges warming the observation deck back up, if only visually. Cloud formation enthusiasts would also be having a real field day, sometimes being so low they feel close enough to touch.


A striking rainbow amongst the mist

Finally as the weekend came around the sea calmed enough for some brief sightings of harbour porpoise. The birds also seemed to come out in force taking advantage of the storms mixing powers on the sea. The clouds had even cleared enough for myself and passengers to enjoy a wonderful sunset.


A beautiful sunset

On Sunday, I took shore leave in Newcastle to visit Whitley Bay at take part in the annual Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean event. Here myself and almost 40 other volunteers from the local area came together, litter pickers in hand to remove any debris that we could find. The most common item we found were cigarette filters. It takes a cigarette filter approximately 200 years to degrade, that means every modern day cigarette filter every created still exists on this planet somewhere in some form! So not only is smoking incredibly bad for your health, it is also poisoning our marine wildlife as well. Other items found were cable ties and plastic bags. All of which are extremely detrimental to marine wildlife. Please remember if visiting your local coast line take only pictures and leave only memories, let’s all help to preserve the natural beauty of our shores.


Our data from the beach clean at Whitley Bay

By Monday morning the sideways rain had returned with a vengeance and I was happy to great Julia back on-board that evening. Julia will now be on-board for the final week of the season with myself joining her on several occasions to close the Wildlife Officer season. Please come back next week to see how Julia gets on and to see a summary of our sightings so this year.


Posted by: orcaweb | September 12, 2017

Winter is coming!

Arriving on Tuesday morning I was happy to hear that Charlie had seen white-beaked dolphins on the mornings’ sail in, giving him a good send off for the end of his Wildlife Officer placement. Charlie was the last of our placements for this year and what a great year it has been for them all. I’d like to personally thank Lexie, Paul, Beccy and Charlie for all of their hard work. Not only do they help to make our programme on-board so fulfilling but they all brought their own style and skills to the role that they undertook at sea for four weeks. If you or someone you know might be interested in joining us in the North Sea again next year please keep an eye on our website and social media. We should be opening applications for placements again in the New Year so keep your eyes peeled.

As I embarked with Julia, I was hopeful of sightings that evening and we were not left disappointed. Unidentified dolphins splashing in the distance, a couple of harbour porpoise near the bow and not one, not two, but three minke whales!  This made for a really great deck watch and a fantastic start to my next two weeks on-board. The sun began to set so we headed back in and even though the daylight was fading several passengers came into the centre to advise us they had seen large dark animals with small fins, more minkes were on the move.


Things started off rather picturesque this week

The following day as Julia disembarked in Ijmuiden the weather had worsened and it is fair to say the summer has ended here in the North Sea. A heavy sea state meant no cetaceans were spotted on either deck watches. Gulls, gannets and skuas were all around though, always undeterred by the wild gales that can often sweep through. Due to the rapidly decreasing temperature I was alone for most of Thursdays morning deck watch however I never felt alone. Above my head were at least 20 gannets all soaring high, using the uplift from the ship to save their energy. I was grateful for their company and enjoying watching their swift movements as we returned to North Shields.  The following evening the weather worsened when the cold winds were joined by a heavy downpour of rain. It is definitely advisable to wear warm waterproof clothing should you be joining us out on deck! By Friday the sky had become so grey that the scenery looked like a black and white photograph and the evening was worse yet with the deck being so windy and rain coming in at a 90 degree angle that the deck watch had to be cancelled.


Ijmuiden just in sight on a very grey day

Saturday thankfully the skies had brightened although there was still a lot of white water. Pleased to get into the safety of the River Tyne, I was thrilled to see a large grey seal swimming calmly by.


A grey seal in the mouth of the river Tyne

By the end of the week, we were experiencing gale for seven winds and deck watches were getting more and more difficult. When in the centre I had to secure any loose items to ensure nothing fell and many passengers had retired to their cabins to sleep off the heavy swell.

With just one more full week left on-board for myself I am hoping the rough weather will subside just long enough for me to get in some really great sightings. Please come back next week with fingers crossed to see how I get on!


Posted by: orcaweb | September 5, 2017

Enthusiastic passengers and a massive Thank you!

It has continued to be a rather quiet week for sightings here in the North Sea since last weeks whale encounter! Although Thursday morning did bring us a brief harbor porpoise sighting as we approached Ijmuiden (the port we dock at for Amsterdam). This was reassuring as we were beginning to wonder where our favourite little cetacean had gone!

We have continued, however, to have some fantastic aerial displays. The gannets have continued to fly using the up-draft created by the ship; I’m beginning to think they’re quite vain as it makes for an easy close up picture! We have also seen a few more great skua’s on the North Shields and Ijmuiden side of the crossing. These birds tend to scavenge for food and can be pretty aggressive, we have seen them attacking gulls for their dinner on a few occasions.


Synchronized gannets

The gulls themselves are also rather cheeky as we had a second croissant thief on Saturday morning. The herring gull wasn’t particularly successful only getting the napkin on the first attempt. After a few more failed flybys they gave up, but did allow us to get some great pictures!


Cheeky Herring Gull!

We can also still hear the guillemot chicks on the sea surface, although actually seeing them is a bit more challenging! In my four weeks alone I have seen a big change. The chicks have grown and are now a similar size to their parents and the adults are also showing their winter plumage. This is very similar to the chick’s plumage making it really hard to tell them apart!


Guillemot adult and chick…. but which ones which!?

It has been great talking to the passengers on board the King Seaways and understanding their views on the wildlife and our environment. Some people are in complete awe of everything you tell them and are so enthusiastic about the wildlife and the work of ORCA. I have really enjoyed these encounters and seeing others enthusiasm continues to build my own.

We visited the Dove Marine Laboratory in Cullercoats for an open day on Wednesday. It was really enjoyable to see how interested the locals were about the marine life on their doorstep. Many were not aware of ORCA being onboard the DFDS King Seaways and were really interested to hear of our work and the wildlife that is in their local sea!


Dove Marine Laboratory open day

As well as talking about marine life we have also spoken to passengers about marine litter. I find it interesting to discuss the doom and gloom subject with them. Many people are really positive about the work ORCA is doing.  Some passengers have even apologised for the state in which they have left the planet, and that we have to deal with the aftermath. Other passengers have talked about changes they have made, such as not wearing polyester fleeces, as plastic fibres are washed down the drain to ultimately end up in the sea. Another example is becoming more conscious about eating sustainably, such as not eating farmed salmon because of the huge environmental costs to the surrounding seas. Of course it is really important to educate people about these threats and environmental concerns, but it is not until we take responsibility that change occurs. Have a look at our Make a Small Change page for some inspiration!

I had some expectations about this placement and what I would gain from it. I was looking forward to understanding more about life in the North Sea, and engaging with passengers. I was quite nervous about the presentations but am really pleased that I have had the opportunity to develop in this area and am now really enjoying giving them. It is always a good thing to expand your comfort zone and my confidence has definitely grown throughout this experience.


Harry the harbour porpoise is always a crowd pleaser!

Coming to the end of these four weeks I definitely have a greater knowledge, sense of achievement and fulfillment than I could have hoped for. Something I didn’t expect was to gain such a sense of responsibility and I am so excited for my future career in this area and to make a difference. This has all been down to Julia and Lucy, thank you so much for giving me a great few weeks! I’m also looking forward to attending the Marine Mammal Surveyor course so that I can continue to support and contribute to ORCA’s fantastic work in the future!

Thank you so much for a really fantastic experience!!

Charlie – Wildlife Officer Placement


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