I no longer sit in the Orca Wildlife Centre on these long summer nights longing to be out on the outside observation decks. On the 23rd June we saw a Minke whale 500 metres away from the Centres window, on the starboard side of the ship, lunge feeding. Spotting this 10m whale roll over twice then gasping as its pointy long head broke through the waters surface to feed was…incredible! On 5 previous occasions I have seen porpoises from this window but never yet a dolphin. The dolphin sightings are often from the outside observation deck over the bow of the King of Scandinavia as these animals attempt riding our wave.
Returning to the ship in late June I was keen to see the changes in marine life as the spring watch officially turned to a summer of seawatching. The first noticeable change were the Guillemot chicks now out to sea to fledge with the help of only their Dad. Having jumped off their rocky nest ledges on our cliffs and islands they are paddling out to sea and the chicks are yet unable to fly. They are now far out in the North sea and we often here them chirping for a feed from Dad as we pass close by on the ship. Lots of Jelly fish now stream out on the warm currents across the North Sea. These currently include the stinging Lions main, and the harmless compass and moon jellies; some are tiny some a metre in size.
With all this good weather brings the mirror calm seas and on these nights’ lots of passengers relax outside on the many sun decks. This of course makes my job a lot easier as they pop into the Wildlife Centre with all their sightings to put on our map. Lots of the children come into the Centre to talk about wildlife, make some pictures, read a story or play. The Centre is a calming oasis in many people’s travels and lots return to tell us about the animals they have spotted on their stays. It’s great when you can still show them new animals out to sea from the King.
On the 4th of July we spotted 6 Minke whales 20 nautical miles off Whitby- Scarborough coastline between Castle ground and Inner bank; an area used as a submarine range. All the whales were heading NW and feeding. Gannets, Kittiwakes, Manx shearwaters were fluttering above them, circling, following and diving in to steal a fish and pin pointing these marine mammals for us. Feeding frenzies like these; with dolphins and porpoises joining in too, and maybe predatory fish and sharks hidden below, remind us of the vitality of our seas. The Oceans are massively affected by human developments, greed and waste, and millions of animals depend on the North Sea to live, feed and breed successfully.
Minke photos were taken by photographer and passenger Willem Wijnveldt with great thanks from us!
The Marine Act was passed last year. By 2012 we will have marine reserves around our coast that can hopefully link by corridors to worldwide networks one day. How fantastic it will be to protect the structural organisms such as kelp beds and then see many more animals out to sea. If you want to get involved in saying where we need these areas to protect our marine life there is an interactive map at www.mczmapping.org. Why not have your say and let’s start respecting our ocean environments that we all also depend on.
Kathryn Driscoll Senior Wildlife Education Officer ORCA Organisation Cetacea