22/07/2014: UPDATE!!! I am please to inform you that we saw dolphins this morning!! After a horrible evening last night, where I went out on deck for approximately 10 seconds and got soaked completely from head to toe in face-on rain, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to a beautiful sunny sea state zero. We saw 12 porpoises and then very close to Newcastle port, three amazing white-beaked dolphins surfaced in front of a full observation deck – brilliant!
20/07/2014: Albeit a few harbour porpoises, we’ve not seen many cetaceans over the last few days. Why might this be? Well, firstly the sea state has not exactly been on our side with “sea-state 3” being the average which makes it difficult to see the little harbour porpoise whose tiny triangular dorsal fin is lost among the waves. Also, the whitecaps can easily mask the splash of a dolphin especially in the distance. But we should still be able to spot the majestic minke whale and so it could well be that the Force 7/8 storm that we encountered last week has displaced the cetaceans or the shoals of fish on which they feed – but hopefully just temporarily.
Still, there has been no shortage of beautiful birds or spectacular sunsets over the last week with sightings of lesser black-backed gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars, puffins, manx shearwaters, and of course the gannets, and there is a nice atmosphere on the observation deck with many people hoping to see a cetacean and eager to learn about the wildlife in our part of the North Sea.
Indoors at the ORCA centre the atmosphere has been lovely too. One evening we had so many people for our DVD showing, that kids were lay in a row on the floor, propped up with Shelly our blow-up dolphin behind their heads, whilst on another occasion a couple cracked open a bottle of bubbly and settled down in style to listen to our “Wine and Whales” evening lecture. It’s really satisfying to see guests using our space in different ways where we can get across our messages on the general “marvellous-ness” of cetaceans and the threats they face, in an environment where our guests can have a relaxing and enjoyable time.
As my third week onboard comes to a close, my latest self-evaluation scores are rocketing (and yes they have been confirmed before you ask!). ORCA certainly knows how to employ organised and capable wildlife officers, and this combined with the resources available in the ORCA wildlife centre, has given me lots of opportunity to practice the difficult art (to me) of keeping kids engaged. I’ve also learned how to give presentations to groups that differ every time, from their ages to their nationalities to their level of knowledge of cetaceans. I’ve learned how to make deck watches stimulating when there are no cetaceans around and am eternally grateful to the seabirds for being out there braving the elements giving me a wealth of factoids at my fingertips – did you know that it’s Dad guillemot who takes his little offspring out to sea to show it the ropes? And I’ve learned how to spot seabirds at a glance, from just the beat of a wing or a brief glance of a dangly yellow leg. My heartfelt thanks to Sara and Anna for giving me this opportunity in the first place, and for all their help and guidance throughout. I fear they’ll have to make me walk the plank to get me off the ship in a week’s time as I know I’ll be reluctant to leave behind such a wonderful environment and rewarding experience.