Log: 2008 FSS Deepwater Survey

21st Sep 2008 Survey Ended: 2008 FSS Deepwater Survey

Area: Shelf Slopes

Agency: Marine Institute

Ship: R.V. Celtic Explorer

Observer: Dave Wall

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21st September 2008

This morning was still very rough. Despite this the captain reported a group of common dolphins approaching the bow as we crossed from the Porcupine Bank to the Irish Shelf. As the weather improved a bit in the afternoon a survey was conducted but there were no sightings. We dock in Killybegs, Co. Donegal tomorrow morning and that marks the end of the survey. Two short weeks ashore and it'll be time for the southwest herring survey.... watch this space!

Download the full survey report.


20th September 2008

Another day of rough seas meant another day in the 'office' doing paperwork. Tomorrow is our last day at sea.

19th September 2008

With the morning came calm... but with the calm came fog. Despite the restricted vis (500-1000m at most) we has two sperm whale sightings (inluding one close to the ship - see pics) and one pilot whale sighting (a single bull). Proceedings were brought to a halt at 3pm as the fog became more dense, vis. was restricted to less than 500m and survey ended. Despite this a group of common dolphins (30 animals) approached the bow, emerging from the dense fog like ghosts. There may have been more large whales but if there were, then they were lost in the fog.

Sperm Whale Diving © Dave Wall/IWDG/GMIT

18th September 2008

All hopes of a repeat of yesterdays excitement faded as daylight revealed rough seas and heavy fog. The conditions lasted all day and duties were confined to the office.

17th September 2008

Despite poorer weather conditions (force 5), here on the Celtic Explorer we will not be out done. No sooner has IWDG announced its first blue whale sighting with images, then.... While watching what I thought was a fin whale (one of many blows seen today, which due to poor sea conditions I was having great problems identifying to species) when it fluked... now fin whales don't often fluke and when they do they arent renouned for sticking their flukes high out of the water in a graceful dive.

At times like this you rule things in and out... I know sperm whales and humpbacks well and it wasn't either of those... so that left an errant fluking fin whale (unlikley due to the height of the tail out of the water), a right whale (unlikely... well... just unlikley!) or a blue whale... wow! Somewhat excited I announced to the crew that it was a blue whale and then worried that I might have jumped the mark... after all I'd only seen a whale fluke. Nevertheless the mission was on and Ciaran (the captain) was on for a mission to prove that we had a blue on our hands. Once the last trawl was in we gave chase... well rather we slowly edged in the direction the whale was feeding as it's a big ship and in any case the whale had barely moved from the area it was feeding in for the previous hour.

After many frustrating distant glimpses it was only possible to see that the behaviour of this whale was unusual. It was surfacing at 10min intervals, blowing 5 or 6 times at the surface in 10-20 second intervals and then diving (probably to a depth of 50-120m as this was where the marks on sonar were). Next piece of evidence was 2 glimpses of the dorsal fin which was very small (not nearly as pronounced as in a fin whale). Then as we got closer the fluke appeared (see pics) and again closer in the binoculars showing a thick tailstock strongly curving to the tail fluke. The tail stock was of uniform colour