Posted by: orcaweb | July 14, 2013

A whale of a time for both guests and competition winners

This week got off to an exciting start as I had two competition winners and their families come on board with me for a wildlife training day. The Primary Times newspaper (which is sent to thousands of schools in the north east of England) ran a competition earlier this year asking children to design and write about their very own marine superhero.

The winners, Millie Carss (11) and George Thomson (8), won a day to come on board, while the King was docked in Newcastle, to be trained as Junior Wildlife Officers. We spent the day touring the ship, measuring the size of blue whales on the top deck, learning about North Sea wildlife in an interactive presentation and, of course, looking out for wildlife on the observation deck!

Both families were enthusiastic with their bird spotting and eagerly wrote down the different species sighted. The day was rounded off with lunch for both families in our Latitude Restaurant and writing wildlife diary entries for what we had done that day – you can see from Millie’s diary entry (below) just how thrilled she was to be on board! Both Millie and George also won a free mini-cruise to Amsterdam, which they are looking forward to taking with their families in August.

The families measuring out the size of a blue whale on our top deck.

The families measuring out the size of a blue whale on our top deck.

George (left) and brother Harry in the bridge.

George (left) and brother Harry in the bridge.

The families doing their deck watch.

The families doing their deck watch.

Millie and George with Wildlife Officer Sara spotting birds.

Millie and George with Wildlife Officer Sara spotting birds.

We love ORCA!

We love ORCA!

Millie's diary entry, showing what a great day she had had on board!

Millie’s diary entry, showing what a great day she had had on board!

As our competition winners left the ship, that evening an ORCA survey team came on board for this month’s survey. The weather was great – sunny skies and flat calm water – and they spotted a minke whale as soon as we came out of Newcastle! Annoyingly, I was doing a presentation so didn’t see it (not that I was jealous of course). But guests and I still had a truly fantastic evening that night when we did go out onto the deck – we saw dolphins leaping, porpoise spraying and 4 more sharks swimming oh-so-cooly alongside the ship! To read the full survey report of sightings on that crossing, please click here:

With the summer holidays now starting we’ve been having 1,300 passengers on board some evenings, creating a really lively atmosphere on the ship. It’s made this week extremely rewarding as I’ve had constant great feedback from guests (both adults and children) about how much they love the orca centre and the activities we run.

It’s great to see the centre buzzing with youngsters doing wildlife activities (these past few evenings have seen some very intense games of “porpoise snakes and ladders” and “pin the tail on the whale”) as well as adults coming to our “Wine and Whales” evening lectures – an event where guests can bring along a glass of wine from the bar and enjoy a presentation about whale conservation as we sail into the sunset.

Of course the good sightings have also helped orca’s popularity on board, and just last night as I stepped out onto the deck to run my evening deck watch upon leaving Newcastle, within 30 seconds guests and I saw a minke whale right in front of the ship – I can’t ask for better than that! That morning we also saw white-beaked dolphins leaping out of the water and crashing down with big splashes for everybody to see.

This is also a really nice time of year to be seeing the mother and calf pairs of porpoise – of which we’ve been recording frequent sightings. It seems that most of the wildlife this week is getting spotted just outside of Newcastle at around 6:30-7pm in the evening (the week before we were seeing them at 10pm, closer to Hull) so I hope they don’t venture any further north so that Ben can continue to see them for his shift! As we came out of the Tyne two nights ago I saw at least 200 gannets (in 5 different groups) circling and plummeting into the water – that’s definitely the place to be this week if you’re a cetacean!

I am now away for 3 weeks – I don’t want to go, I’m really going to miss it. Have a good one Ben!

Be back soon,

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