Lost. Hopelessly lost. Dragging behind me a huge suitcase and a rucksack, prepared for every eventuality other than getting lost in Newcastle! Several phone calls and directions later I finally made it to the ferry, only one hour late. The next few days were a hive of activity, spent getting used to life on board the ship and learning how the orca centre is run. The ship is a maze of corridors and cabins, all of which look the same, so I had many more experiences of getting lost before finally finding my feet almost 2 weeks into the internship!
Sea state is a major factor in the number of sightings of animals. In the rough weather it can be very difficult to spot a shy Harbour Porpoise rolling through the waves, or even a group of confident dolphins. However, one morning as we were heading into Newcastle, the sea was completely flat and calm. A pod of white-beaked dolphins were spotted, far off into the distance, almost as far as the horizon. This would have been impossible to see if there were high waves but with a good pair of binoculars we could see them leaping out of the water very clearly. Later on we caught sight of a Minke Whale, which was the very first whale I have seen! It was so calm, that we were also able to see many Harbour Porpoises that morning as well.
Photo: A Minke Whale which surfaced 5 times before disappearing behind the boat
After that amazing morning in Newcastle, sightings were few and far between. We caught the tail end of Hurricane ‘Bertha’ with 6m waves during one of the crossings! It wasn’t until one week later when we had the same weather conditions that we were lucky enough to see not one, but two Minke Whales. Having explained during the presentation that it can be very difficult to spot wildlife and can take a lot of patience, our first whale was sighted very close to the boat within 2 minutes of starting a deck watch! People were pointing and talking excitedly, one child was just shouting ‘WHALE!’ over and over again. It was great to see everyone so happy and excited about spotting wildlife. About an hour later, the cry of whale was taken up again as everyone rushed pointing with their binoculars to the port side of the ship. One of the passengers said it was the best day of her life, seeing a whale in the wild. The importance of ORCA cannot be underestimated, enthusing people about wildlife and spreading the word about marine conservation by giving them the chance to see a whale, dolphin or porpoise in the wild.
You can support ORCA’s work by becoming a member for only £3 a month! For more information, please see http://www.orcaweb.org.uk/support-us/become-a-member
Sarah (August Marine Officer Intern)