Posted by: orcaweb | June 30, 2014

The Minke Whale Extravaganza

Hello – Rachel here!

Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned the idea of me giving up on sleep and food until I saw a minke whale? Worry no longer dear readers, for I have seen one! In fact, I have seen several. These past couple of days there have been minke whales galore, something much appreciated by the students of Highfield school. After coming on board with us for two nights, the children got to see porpoise, white beaked dolphins and minke whales – all 3 of our major cetaceans in the North Sea!

Other than being incredible wildlife spotters, the children of Highfield school showed us they also have other talents. While on board, the kids drew some of their favourite animals to put in a “Thank You” card to the captain, for letting them go to the bridge. The artistry involved in creating this masterpiece was impressive, as I’m sure you’ll all agree.


On Thursday morning, the deck was alive with the sounds of children, wildlife officer and passenger alike, shouting “Sighting!” At some points, it was almost too difficult to record all of the sightings, with many fingers pointed in opposite directions as the minke whales, harbor porpoises and white-beaked dolphins exploded into action around us.

whitebeaks (2) whitebeaks whitebeaks3 minke1

The day just continued to get better as it progressed, with people running into the ORCA centre to tell me they’d seen something through the window. When we started the deck-watch, giant baitballs were apparent on the horizon; with hundreds of gannets diving for their prey. Paying close attention to the white flurry of motion ahead, we managed to see a further 9 minke whales, bringing our total for that day up to 13! Undoubtedly, Thursday was my favourite day on board.


Hundreds of gannets plunged into the water like arrows as they were feeding on a huge baitball of fish.


Unfortunately, I leave the ship today! Leaving will be painful after all of the fun I’ve had on board. On this trip I have gained everything I hoped to, and more. Other than managing to see this awe-inspiring wildlife, I’ve also developed my skills in identification and presenting to groups of people. I have also met some truly remarkable people from all over the world, united by their passion for marine life. Overall, this has been an incredibly rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone.


Thank you!

Rachel (Wildlife Officer Trainee)


Hello – Sara here! Well, Rachel has stolen most of the best parts of this week’s sightings for her blog – but I can gloat a little as I managed to see something that she didn’t: a minke whale lunge feeding in front of the ship! I was up in the bridge at 10:30pm and before my eyes it burst from the water like a rocket – chasing a shoal of fish. It only came up once, so I didn’t manage to get a photo. However, most of the school children saw it too, which was a highlight of their trip (along with meeting the captain!).

Spurred on by the week of good sightings I leaped out of bed at 5am this morning as we sailed past Whitby, hoping to see the baitball feeding and cetaceans again in the same spot. However, the only whale we saw was at 9am close to Sunderland – but at least Rachel got a last glimpse of one before she heads for home!

Total cetacean sightings this week:

17 minke whales

54 white beaked dolphins

40 porpoise


Thanks for all your help Rachel, it’s been a great 4 weeks having you on board. I now have Moorside Primary School coming on board tonight so I hope the sightings stay good for them! I’ll let you know next week 🙂


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