Posted by: orcaweb | June 2, 2014

The North Sea bursts into life!

“They’re finally here!” I yelled as my guests whooped and cheered. I was relieved. After weeks of relatively few sightings in the choppy sea, the winds had completely dropped leaving the water a welcoming flat calm. Last year it was the final week of May that all the cetaceans showed up…and I must admit, when it got to the last day of May I did start to wonder where they had all gotten to…but they didn’t disappoint!

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Happy members of the Delta Safari group pointing to what they’d seen!

Yesterday was the best day I have EVER had on board DFDS Seaways. Joining me was the Delta Safari group from Holland (who came on board as part of a wildlife trip to the Farne Islands) and I was so grateful to have 16 extra pairs of eyes to help me scan the water! The morning was very promising, with 4 sightings of minke whales, 5 white beaked dolphins and 4 bottlenose dolphins – I was ecstatic!

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This minke whale appeared right alongside the ship – welcomed by cheers from passengers!

But the evening was truly overwhelming. After giving my talk to our passengers on “Wildlife of the North Sea”, and explaining that we need lots of patience when waiting for whales, we stepped out into the cool air of the observation deck. We were standing no longer than 30 seconds before a minke whale appeared from underneath the glassy surface of the water at the front of the ship.

Passengers were so excited that I had to fight for a space at the railings to keep watching as it surfaced again. After that, white beaked dolphins started leaping out of the water, showing off with acrobatics, back flips and belly flops – and so the sightings continued! Another whale…more dolphins…porpoise…whale…dolphins… I’ve never seen so many people out on the Observation deck with me. Even when it got to 10:30pm and I stepped back inside (for a necessary hot chocolate) I saw everybody in our Columbus Club run to the side of the ship to look out of the windows as THREE minke whales surfaced together from the night time waters.

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White beaked dolphins

You don’t need to share a language with people to enjoy this amazing experience with others – their faces say it all. An elderly German couple, who spoke no English, couldn’t have made their gratitude and excitement clearer to me. Families watched eagerly, with children pressing their noses against the windows, as the whales surfaced again and again in the evening sunset. That day, a total of 14 minke whales were spotted and so many dolphins and porpoise I lost count (my GPS batteries actually died from entering so many sightings – but if I had to guess I’d say roughly 30 dolphins and 50 porpoise for the day).

Will next week top it? It will be tough – but let’s hope so!

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