Posted by: orcaweb | September 25, 2017

A sea of clouds and rainbows

Hello everyone and welcome back to our weekly blog telling you all about our Wildlife Officer programme on board the DFDS King Seaways. On 18th September I embarked for my last shift on board as (unbelievably!) our ORCA wildlife season will finish on 29th September, so this time I’m here for just a bit under two weeks.

I really can’t believe it’s the end of the season. The last six months have absolutely flown by. It’s been absolutely great running the Wildlife Officer programme on board, meeting all the wonderful passengers and of course spotting all of this amazing wildlife. But I don’t want to wrap up the season just yet, as I will first tell you about this week on board and you’ll get another ‘farewell’ – blog from me at the end of this week.

So how was my week? It started with quite calm waters, but no sightings. Tuesday morning there were a lot of diving gannets, which are always great to observe. What was the most striking feeling of this day’s morning deck watch sailing towards Newcastle though, was that I was feeling horribly cold. I thought that even during summer it has always been fairly cold and windy out on deck and that there wasn’t too much of a difference to the beginning of the season in March. At least I didn’t really change the number of layers of clothing I was wearing. But that day I realised how wrong I was and that it’s starting to get much colder again. I probably should be wearing some more layers.


What would a blog be without a photo of a gannet?

Another thing that made the past few deck watches a bit difficult – next to the wintery weather – was that the light actually began to fade in the evening. With the sunset being around 7:30 already it’s been quite hard to watch for a full hour. The benefit of this was of course being able to actually watch some of these beautiful sunsets. However that’s only possible when we leave the Ijmuiden side of our crossing as it’s only then that we’re facing west with the bow of the ship where our observation deck is located.


Stunning sunset over the North Sea

With the first few deck watches of last week being quite uneventful, I was in for a nice surprise on Thursday evening. The sea was pretty calm with just small wavelets. Because of these calm waters I immediately noticed a few splashes quite far away. As there was no white water to be seen anywhere at all, I knew these splashes had to be an indication of some animals. Indeed, I was able to identify a white-beaked dolphin breaking the water surface a couple of times as it went on its way. While I was busy recording all the information about this sighting, two stunning rainbows were building up in the sky. When I looked up from our data logger, I saw four beautiful parts of these two rainbows, one on each end of the arch. One of them was particular bright and big and seemed to be so near, the colours seemed to glow and shine very intensively. I’ve never seen a rainbow like this before. It was really a stunning sight. Shortly thereafter I saw another group of dolphins, splashing about in the distance, and sometime later on a harbour porpoise quite close to the ship. So this was really a marvellous deck watch!


A bright glowing rainbow over the North Sea

What has always fascinated me these past few months were the different colours of the sea and the sky. It’s amazing how much that can change the whole atmosphere. Sometimes I really wondered if it was still the same sea I was travelling on as it could look so utterly different from just a few hours and sometimes even minutes before. You get colours ranging from deep marine blue, blue-greenish, turquoise, dull grey to shining silvery colours – with the whole sea looking just like liquid silver. And then of course if you have a flat or near flat sea surface, a beautiful evening sky reflected in the water can transform the whole scenery just into something magical.


Beautiful evening sky – a fantastic view out on the observation deck

Saturday brought some special visitors on board, as one of the volunteer ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor teams embarked for its last survey of this season. It’s always really nice to meet and chat to these volunteers, as usually they have a lot of fascinating wildlife and life stories to tell you about. While I saw one unidentified dolphin Saturday morning, neither the survey team nor I had any sighting during the evening nor on Sunday.

The last few days I welcomed a lot of Dutch and German speaking visitors. On one occasion I presented our main talk about the wildlife of the North Sea in Dutch. Especially the children were happy about this, as they could ask me any questions themselves, without needing a translator. On Sunday evening I started to deliver a German presentation, but had to switch back to English, as there were a few more English speaking people joining. It’s no problem at all though, if you’re not able to follow everything in English, as we do have Dutch and German handouts on board to follow the presentations in the ORCA centre.


A rather pale sun disappearing into the fog

So now it’s only a couple of more days before the end of this year’s wildlife season on board. I’ll cherish these last few days on board and maybe I can tell you about a few more fantastic sightings in our last blog. So join us in a couple of days to get a final summary of this year’s wildlife season and a heartfelt goodbye from myself!


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