Posted by: orcaweb | September 5, 2008

ORCA / DFDS Seaways Wildlife Officer Grethe Hillersøy spots sea eagles and minke whales on our most popular journey yet on the ORCA and DFDS Seaways Wildlife Cruise to Norway!

Newcastle to Bergen (4th – 7th August 2008)


A close encounter with a seal, a new record set to attending guests coming to see the “Wildlife of the North Sea” presentation, and the sighting of the very impressive White-tailed eagle close to Haugesund! These are the highlights of this trip going up to Bergen, Norway.


Passengers scan the fjords for porpoises and sea eagles

Passengers scan the fjords for porpoises and sea eagles

Just as we were leaving the Newcastle harbour again this afternoon, we spotted a common seal right in front of the boat. He looked back at us for a few seconds, then decided it was best to dive to get away from this huge ship that was coming right towards him. When we see the seals on these trips they are often very close to the boat, and they always look back at us as much as we are looking at them, before they disappear underwater. The common seal only grows to a maximum 1.85 meters, and is much smaller than the grey seal. They also have a cuter, more dog-like face, and their nostrils form a V. In comparison, the grey seal has a “roman nose” and its latin name actually means ‘hooked-nosed sea pig’, and the males of this species may grow up to 3.3 meters in length.


When I did the presentation on this trip there were so many people that wanted to see it that we could not actually fit them all into the ORCA conference room! We filled up the room as much as we could, and some were quite happy to sit on the floor for the whole presentation. Therefore, I had an extra presentation the next day for the remaining guests that we could not fit in the night before, and again the room filled up. I was amazed and delighted at how many people were so keen to see the presentation. On the way back from Bergen I almost had a full room again, which meant that all up I had about 150 guests attending the presentation on just one trip! It is so much fun to meet all these lovely and enthusiastic people, and they are all very positive to ORCA being onboard. A comment that we often get is how much more interesting the trip becomes once they realise all the different things they may spot on the way!  


Over 150 guests attended the presentation on this trip!

Over 150 guests attended the presentation on this trip!

As we were approaching Haugesund on the way south again, we spotted a huge bird crossing in front of the boat. A white-tailed eagle! We’ve had quite a few sightings of this very impressive bird between Haugesund and Bergen. The species is making a come-back in Norway after population declines. It is more common in the north of Norway, but there are about 100 breeding pairs in the Bergen area, and every now and then we are lucky enough to see one of these birds from the “Queen of Scandinavia”. It is the largest eagle in the region with an impressive 2.6 metre wingspan. You can easily recognise it purely on the size, and also the broad, square wings with the “fingertip”-primary feathers. Fantastic bird!


The next day we were heading for the Newcastle harbour again, and along came another minke whale. It was quite close to the harbour again. Maybe it is the same animal? Hopefully he/she is there when Beth heads back over to Newcastle tomorrow!



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