What a great week back on board! Not only has the ORCA centre been packed (really – I’ve hardly been able to move) but we’ve had some great sightings as well. Yesterday morning as we sailed across a zero sea state into Newcastle, I was pointing out porpoise after porpoise to the 50+ guests we had on the observation deck.
A delighted Dutch family had only just mentioned how overwhelmed and pleased they would be if they could see a minke whale in the North Sea. As if the whale had heard them through the cool waters beneath us, one appeared right at the front of the ship.
Shrieks erupted from the deck as couples, children and families alike were ecstatic. The minke surfaced again one more time – with a pronounced arching of the back signalling a deep dive.
On a high from the buzzing atmosphere on deck (and having to elbow my way back to the front “Excuse me – Wildlife Officer coming through!”) I scanned the waves for more activity. On the horizon I saw what looked like the head of a grey seal bobbing in the waves. Staring at it through my binoculars, I decided it was too big and stationary to be a seal and dismissed it as a barrel. However, as we drew nearer and nearer, guests and I kept watching it, intrigued. When we came within 50 metres of it, it moved. It was grey seal (and a huge one at that – presumably a male, which can reach up to 300kg) and it had been fast asleep!
Seals do something known as “glass bottling” – when they bob in the waves like a bottle, their head sticking out of the water as they snooze. The seal gave us a slightly bemused look (we had, after all, woken it from what looked like a pleasant morning nap in the sun) before diving back underneath the water.
We also had an ORCA survey team come on board over the weekend – I joined them on watch after closing the ORCA centre in the evenings. They were lucky enough to spot common dolphins outside of Ijmuiden! I’ve never seen dolphins (of any species) on the Netherlands side of the crossing – so it’s great to hear that they do occasionally visit make an appearance here!
The only sad thing about this week is that I have to say goodbye to Janine, our trainee for July. She has been absolutely fantastic – and a real asset to the ORCA centre this month while it has been so busy. Thank you Janine – it would have been manic without you!
Let’s hope the good sightings continue for next week – I’ll be glued to the observation deck with my binoculars and camera.