Posted by: orcaweb | August 2, 2016

Princess Seaways Sailing & Sunderland Airshow

24th-26th July 2016

Ruth Coxon & Lucy McLeod

On Sunday 24th July two ORCA wildlife officers, Ruth and Lucy boarded the DFDS Princess Seaways to hopefully spot some amazing wildlife across the North Sea from the Port of Tyne to IJmuiden whilst also engaging with passengers about the wonderful whales and dolphins they so passionately care about.

Lucy (1)

Lucy looking out for whales & dolphins

The first day started with a short day sail taking anchorage just outside Sunderland in order to watch the annual air show. During the sail out to the waters of Sunderland we undertook a short deck watch and whilst no cetaceans were see there was plenty of birds to be seen in the area.


A gannet sails through the sky


A beautiful Fulmar followed the ship

The air show got underway and whilst passengers (and ourselves) ooo’d and arrr’d over the amazing display taking place in the sky we decided to entertain a few families between flights by measuring out various cetacean species of the north sea along the outside decks. Being able to compare the animal’s size with the ship put a great perspective on things for our excited audience.

Once the air show was complete and we had sailed back to the Port of Tyne we then got ready for our mini cruise to the Netherlands. We assembled in the ships foyer to meet the new passengers and to let them know about our upcoming activities throughout the sailing.  Our first deck watch was not a disappointing one. Almost immediately after arriving out on deck we saw three harbour porpoises, surfing the waves around the ship. There were also a large amount of jellyfish seen too.

blue jellyfish

Blue Jellyfish

lions mane jellyfish 0

A magnificent Lions Mane Jellyfish


Following the pleasing sighting we then gave a presentation in the kids club for all the aspiring marine biologists on-board which we rounded up with some more games, quizzes and activities, testing their new found knowledge.

The following morning we undertook an early morning deck watch before arriving into Ijmuiden. This was a quiet morning with no cetaceans to report however it was a picturesque sail in with large wind turbine farms on both side of us. After a few hours spent sightseeing in Amsterdam we then returned to the ship to greet the next group of passenger boarding the princess. They were given a presentation in the kids club as well as some fun activities out on deck before we called in a day in anticipation for the mornings deck watch.

Wind turbines

Wind turbines on approach to the Netherlands

This was a heavily anticipated deck watch, our last chance for sightings before returning to land. I (Lucy) had been eager to see white-beaked dolphins, a species I had never seen before. I knew these animals did frequent the North Sea. 3 metres in length, a very stocky and robust dolphin, I was desperate to see them before I returned home. Ruth had advised me we had a 50/50 chance of seeing the white-beaked dolphins on our return to port but it was not looking hopeful. Hours past and I was starting to lose hope, the harbour walls were in sight. Then, the cry! Dolphins! There they were, literally just outside the harbour walls, four white beaked dolphins crashing through the water with their tall, dark dorsal fins, not like any other dolphin species I had seen before. We were grateful to have a full deck of passengers with us too who were lucky enough to witness this sighting as well.  It is fair to say both myself, Ruth and the passengers were over joyed at the last minute appearance made by these wonderful animals.

dolphin surfacing

A white-beaked dolphin crashes through the water

dolphin silhouette

The silhouette of a beautiful white-beaked dolphin

Both Ruth and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the crew of DFDS Seaways Princess for making us so welcome and helping us to deliver an enjoyable wildlife officer programme on-board their ship. We hope to see you all again in the future.



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