Posted by: orcaweb | July 9, 2015

Minke Whales, Gannets and Stormy Dolphins.

23rd of June-9th of July.

On the look for cetaceans as we approach Ijmuiden.

On the look for cetaceans as we approach Ijmuiden.

Hello there! My name is Jake and I am the current ORCA placement from the end of June to the end of July. I have just finished my second week on board DFDS King Seaways, and what a two weeks they have been! From the moment I came on board I was made to feel welcome by Wildlife Officer Rachael and the rest of the crew. After a short rest to unpack my bags and settle in to my cabin, I was taken on a quick tour of the ship (this place is like a maze!). It was then up to the ORCA wildlife centre to get kitted up with warm jackets, binoculars, a GPS and recording sheets before heading out on to the front observation deck to do my first survey! The observation deck gives fantastic views out to sea, and it was wonderful to spend time out there looking out for cetaceans (we saw plenty of harbour porpoises) as well as talking to the various members of the public about everything that could be seen out there. Over the next couple of weeks, I have since become more involved in activities, from greeting arriving passengers on the ship and informing them of our activities, to conducting deck watches on my own and delivering my own presentations!

Gannets are Britain's largest seabird and one of our most beautiful.

Gannets are Britain’s largest seabird and one of our most beautiful.

The wildlife that I seen so far is amazing! It is still hard to believe that there is so much living in the North Sea and I have to pull myself away from each deck watch. It is certainly a good thing that my cabin doesn’t have a window as I doubt I would ever get to sleep if it did! So far I have seen what must be over a hundred harbour porpoises, dozens of white beaked dolphins, and eleven minke whales!

Harbour porpoise with calf.

Harbour porpoise with calf.

This is to say nothing of the huge flocks of brilliant white diving gannets, the puffins, great skua, manx shearwater, guillemots, razor bills, terns, gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars and jelly fish that we see on every journey! We even think we saw a shark fin breaking the water! Despite seeing so much already, every sighting is as exciting as the last, whether it is pods of white beaked dolphins crashing through slate grey waves and howling wind at 20mph, sending spray high into the air, or a minke whale calmly surfacing within a hundred metres of us before slipping silently back below the surface. Each sighting still gives me the same feeling of childlike excitement, and I often end up jumping up and down on days with lots of sightings. Perhaps the most exciting day was when we were leaving Newcastle, the sea was fairly calm and sightings began almost immediately, first porpoises, then a pod of white beaked dolphins (with a calf!) and then minke whales. In total, we saw 15 harbour porpoises, 8 white beaked Dolphins and four minke whales! All in an hour!

Minkes are small for whales but this photo still doesn't do justice to the mass of these animals.

Minkes are small for whales but this photo still doesn’t do justice to the mass of these animals.

Another thing of real note, is the weather. Away from the land, with only the flat sea, I have seen the most spectacular skies. On any one day the sky can start over softly clouded and grey, but by evening can have cleared to the most brilliant blue, with sunset bringing beautiful strokes of orange, pink, purple and green hues across a blue canvas. Or the clouds can be whipped up by the wind into crazy shapes and images, with sea spray and big, rolling swells to match.


Awesome “alien” cloud that brought screaming wind and rain, but then cleared to beautiful blue sky.

All I can say is that these first two weeks have been fantastic, exceeding my expectations, and I look forward to what is to come!

How can you support us?

The ORCA Your Seas project is now a finalist in the national lottery awards! Voting takes just 5 seconds, so please help us out by following this link!

If you would like to get involved with ORCA on a marine mammal surveyor course, click here.

If you wish to donate, click here.

If you wish to become a member of ORCA, click here.

Or, for more general information on ORCA, please visit our website.

Jake Taylor-Bruce.




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