Unbelievable maybe and even more so for some people as this is the North Sea!
“Whales and dolphins in the North Sea, no!” This is often said by passengers on board the King for their first trip, or those who still have not found its observation decks. It is not so often said by the locals who live by the sea. They have heard the stories of a bottlenose dolphin off South Shields or Imjiuden, a sperm whale beached at Blyth, tiny porpoise pods in the shallow sea or even an orca pod passing by out to sea.
It’s been an incredible shift on board The King of Scandinavia with dolphin sightings on every mini cruise. I have shared Minke whales at dusk, Risso dolphins logging, white beak dolphins, and Atlantic white sided dolphins bow riding the ship; bottlenose dolphins breaching and a possible pod of Orca travelling by 2 km away. Other passengers were lucky to have dolphins from a window of their cabins or the restaurant and lots of people went out of their cabins to look when children outside shouted “dolphins!” one evening.
A lot of the dolphin sightings have been as the ship turns to land offshore at Seaham and Sunderland on the Durham coastline. We get a bit of a swell there at 8am as the sea is pushed around the coast. And at present we get small pods of dolphins feeding, resting, travelling and playing. The porpoises are seen all the way through the North Sea with a hotspot off the Netherlands coast 1.5hrs before arrival between 2 wind farms. A bottlenose dolphin sometimes breaches further off this shore seen as the sun is setting.
The last sighting was one of the best. Through the swell and the chop 5 dolphins came right into bow ride the starboard side of the ship. I was lucky enough to be only 10 metres away, and could see they were a larger size with yellow coloration on the back of the flanks leading up to the tail….Atlantic white sided dolphins and a first for me. These dolphins are a cooler water species often seen in larger pods further north…but unmistakable.
Not all the passengers saw these animals; some had stayed and watched for an hour, others just arrived on deck….the only 1 person on deck today did not even seem interested when I called dolphins in 3 languages! What a shame the dad and daughter who had been out on watch before me since 5.30am had just gone for breakfast were not their…I hate moments like that! Hopefully on her next trip she will be lucky enough to see some more marine life in the North Sea.
Kathryn Driscoll ORCA Senior Wildlife Education Officer