Posted by: orcaweb | July 18, 2008

ORCA / DFDS Seaways Wildlife Officer Beth Hazell talks about her first experiences onboard the Queen of Scandinavia

A Northern Gannet - the saviour of my activity hour!

A Northern Gannet - the saviour of my activity hour!



Hello and welcome to my first blog!


Newcastle to Bergen (Saturday 14th – Tuesday 17th June)


Having Wildlife Officers on board the DFDS Seaways ferry Queen of Scandinavia is a new concept and I am one of two people lucky enough to hold this unique position.  After an initial training period I spent a week on dry land in the UK and can honestly say I couldn’t wait for my shift to start again.  I was slightly apprehensive though as I knew that the other Wildlife Officer, my Norwegian colleague, Grethe, was getting off in Bergen and I would be left to my own devices.


I met up with Grethe on the Saturday evening in the crew mess ready for departure from Newcastle.  Immediately I was regaled with stories of minke whale sightings and so being completely jealous we spent the next couple of hours on deck at the bow.  Unfortunately no minke whales turned up and so finally when the cold had taken its toll we went back inside.  After literally a few minutes there was a knock on the window and through a new type of sign language we established that a young boy had seen a whale!


We went out to investigate and sure enough a very excited wide-eyed boy described a minke whale. He was even lucky enough to have seen the fluke!  Now I can understand that the more cynical of you may think that perhaps the boy had made it up but there is a certain sense of awe that becomes apparent in anyone that has seen a dolphin or whale, especially one the size of a minke whale, and that was visible in this young lad.  So the cheeky minke whale had decided to show itself behind the backs of the wildlife officers. We would have to redouble our efforts!


About 2 – 3 hours out from Newcastle we hit a ‘hotspot’; an area where a higher number of sightings have occurred and I like to make sure I am on deck during this time.  On the way back from Bergen I was supposed to be hosting ‘Children’s Activity Hour’ with ORCA’ at the same time. My solution? Take the children out on deck.  Activity Hour was announced over the tannoy and we advised people to bring coats and warm clothes as part of the activity so we could go outside to see what we could see.  Eight bundled up children soon appeared, and with the agreement of parents we ventured out from the confines of Conference Room 8 that has become ORCA base camp. 


Linking hands we snaked up the deck. The plan was to go to the bow where there are viewing screens that would enable even the smallest child to get a view of the sea.  Now I will admit that it was a bit breezy but even so I thought we would at least have been able to stay out for a while.  Alas that wasn’t the case and two children said they wanted to turn back immediately.  Amazingly enough in the two minutes that we must have been outside a northern gannet flew past.  That was our cue to leave. The children had been lucky enough to see one of the most amazing birds that we encounter on our journey across the North Sea and even though it was brief, the sighting was enough to ignite interest back in the conference room as we learnt about and drew pictures of the northern gannet, the saviour of my activity hour.  I would like to say that once back inside every single child was perfectly content and the children (and parents) went back to their cabins happy.


So, what have I learnt so far in my role as a Wildlife Officer?  Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there! Eyes in the back of your head would be a great evolutionary step forward! Wind makes small children unhappy, and this is going to be an amazing summer!


Next instalment:

Newcastle to Bergen, Tuesday 17th – Friday 20th June. 

I’ve already seen dolphins………


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