Bobbin’ and a Rollin’

Large, dark grey waves rolled, white water foaming at their crests, and streaking down their backs. The angry wind howled whipping up spray and low, stormy clouds hung low, adding their deluge that stung like knives in the face. The ferry bobbed and rolled in the storm, pitching as a six to eight meter swell lifted and pushed it along.

Then amongst the waves and foam, the distinct sight of a whale’s blow. Despite the ferocious wind, this ephemeral breath hung briefly above the ocean before dissipating… Never did I see the body; the whale’s remaining surfaces hidden, as the ferry continued its stormy journey.
A fin whale, clearly showing the blow, on a good day in the Bay of Biscay

On a good day the Bay of Biscay is one of the best places in Europe to see a variety of whales and dolphins, including the fin whale, the second largest animal on the planet and the sperm whale, the largest of the toothed whales. Today was not good whale watching weather (or even sailing weather for some!) and this was the only glimpse of a whale that we had for the remainder of the trip. And why, I hear you ask, we were there, braving such weather?

Marine Mammal Observers (MMOs) are present onboard ships during offshore seismic, piling and explosives operations. All of these activities introduce high levels of sound into the marine environment, sound which can have serious affects on marine mammals. The role of the observers is to provide advice and implement guidelines produced to protect marine mammals from such noise. So the reason why we were travelling across the Bay in such a storm was to attend a training course to become a trained observer. Despite the weather and lack of sightings, the course was in fact a success, and now I am JNCC accredited MMO.

Scanning for whales and dolphins…
Rachael Barber JNCC accredited MMO

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