26.08 – 02.09 2015
Hello ORCA followers! My name is Beckie and I am the third and final ORCA intern of the season who will be travelling across the North Sea for a month. I came on board on the 18th of August and although it took me a few days to find my way around, the King Seaways definitely feels like home now and I am loving every second of it! Rachael and Ruth have been absolutely fantastic and I have already learnt so much from them about how the ORCA centre runs on board and how to collect accurate cetacean sightings data when out on deck.
The first few days brought rather heavy sea states and despite my eagerness to spot my first cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises), there was not a fin to be seen amongst the waves. There was however a great deal of active sea birds to observe! From gannets demonstrating their outrageously brilliant diving ability to fulmars gracefully gliding along the side of the ship. Rachael, myself and a number of passengers had a front row view to watch the action out on the observation deck. We also saw a number of great skuas (a first for me!) as well as kittiwakes and arctic terns!
It was by day 7 (24th August) that things took a crazy turn for the better, with some fantastic sightings being recorded! I set out on deck to survey as soon as we left North Shields and was ecstatic to spot two white-beaked dolphins a few miles down the coast! The weather was absolutely perfect for spotting cetaceans and not before long harbour porpoises began to pop up port, starboard and centre! Porpoises can be tricky to spot due to their small size and triangular dorsal fin so we were extremely lucky to see them riding the waves, exposing their paler underbellies. In total we saw 72 -a record breaker for this season and an incredible evenings watch!
Sightings continued to roll in over the next few days, with white-beaked dolphins putting on a spectacular show as we approached Newcastle on the 26th. We saw a pod of three breaching, a behaviour in which they leap high out of the water! Porpoises too continued to be seen regularly and one morning as many as nine were spotted feeding together! This is quite unusual as they normally travel in small groups so it was great to see so many in one pod!
I am also really enjoying interacting with passengers and getting creative with lots of children in the ORCA centre. I have been giving presentations to passengers about the wildlife there is to see in the North Sea as well as some of the threats that unfortunately these animals are facing. One evening a pod of five white-beaked dolphins were visible from the ORCA centre window just minutes before I was about to deliver a presentation- talk about perfect timing!!
Another great evening on the 30th brought remarkable sightings of 24 Grey seals within 7 minutes! They were seen by a number of passengers as they spy-hopped at the surface; a behaviour in which they remain still in the water with only their heads on show.
Sightings have been quiet again over the past two days as stormy weather has made it difficult to spot any movements amongst the white waves. Hopefully the sea states will improve and we will have some more great sightings as the week continues! I’m definitely holding out for another Minke Whale!!