Log: 2008 Blue Whiting Survey

1st Apr 2008 Survey Ended: 2008 Blue Whiting Survey

Area: Rockall Trough

Agency: Fisheries Science Services, Marine Institute

Ship: R.V. Celtic Explorer

Observer: Dave Wall

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Date: 15 April 2008

Woke this morning as the ship arrived off St. John's Point, Donegal Bay. No cetaceans sighted in the bay, though a few seals were seen in the channel as we approached Killybegs. Tomorrow we disembark and head for home.

Date: 14 April 2008

Despite calm seas this morning we had no sightings as we headed south and approached the continental shelf waters west of St. Kilda. The weather deteriorated in the afternoon and still no sightings. I'd just about given up all hope when a call from the bridge arrived after tea to say dolphins had been sighted. When I arrived a group of common dolphins were along side. Over the next 20 minutes several more groups of common dolphins appraoched and the grand total was c150 common dolphins. Due back in Donegal tomorrow due to early completion of the fisheries survey.

Date: 13 April 2008

Still no sightings, things have definately got quieter in the Northern part of the Rockall Trough.

Date: 12 April 2008

Heavy swell, rough seas, no cetaceans.

Date: 11 April 2008

Sea state again between 3 and 5 but lots of showers today. Very little cetacean action with the only sighting of the day going to the Skipper who saw two whales surface once within 100m of the ship and then vanish.

Date: 10 April 2008

Sea conditions not too bad today wavering between sea state 3 and 5. Today we headed north to meet up with a Russian survey ship also involved in the 2008 Blue Whiting Survey. Unfortunately things were very quiet on the cetacean front with just a single and distant sighting of a group of unidentified dolphins feeding beneath a flock of gannets. Tonight we head back south to resume our survey transects.

Date: 9 April 2008

Woke this morning to flat calm seas... a pretty rare happening in the Rockall Trough at this time of year. The conditions led to some super sightings. 3 sperm whales were sighted during the morning, with one very close to the ship just logging (resting) and ignoring us and two more fluking and diving as we passed by.

As we passed north of the Anton Dohrm Seamount we encountered pilot whales and Atlantic white-sided dolphins again. I also had a frustrating glimpse of two smallish whales a long way off to port, though the sighting was too brief to call, I suspect the animals were beaked whales of some description.

Just as the weather turned windy in the late morning, an amazing bit of luck - we passed through the calm 'eye' of a depression and got a glimpse of three beaked whales surfacing about 700m from the ship. The elongated beak and size of the animals identiifed them as Sowerby's Beaked Whales - and I even managed to get a (distant) picture of one animal's surfacing sequence.

Total for the day was 2 sightings of sperm whale (3 animals), 2 small unidentified whales (maybe beaked whales), 3 sightings of pilot whales (34 animals), one sighting of Atlantic white-sided dolphins (5 animals) and one sighting of Sowerby's beaked whales (3 animals).

Sowerby's beaked whale, Rockall Trough © Dave Wall

Date: 8 April 2008

This morning brought some better weather. Force 5 (later decreasing force 4) may not get many whale watchers out on a headland but for the Rockall Trough in April it's as good as flat calm! This morning we were on a line between Rockall and North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. I arrived on the bridge to be informed of a sighting of a group of 5 pilot whales at 06:50hr