Life on the Edge Part I

5th Sep 2016

Patrick Lyne reports on the latest IWDG offshore survey this time to the shelf edge near France .....

With a suitable but brief weather window we headed out to the shelf edge from Adrigole harbour on August 28th.  Arriving on the shelf edge the morning of August 29th in dull calm weather.  Common dolphins apart everything was remarkably quiet.  The trouble with feeding activity each year is that is moves and it requires some concerted effort to find activity and there is always the possibility that changes climatic or otherwise will move whales into new areas and away from where you previously expected.  Common dolphins are remarkably abundant on the shelf and shelf edge and even off the shelf.  On August 29th we were greeted by numbers of Portuguese Man of War which have been a feature of the whole trip to date and particularly abundant of the South West of Ireland.

Portugese Man of War of South West Ireland.

On the 29th we broke from our planned sail lines to avoid bad weather and sailed South East over the shelf.  As a result of this our sightings on the 30th were restricted to mostly common dolphin with one sighting of a minke whale.  The common dolphin pods had marked numbers of young calves and it would seem the time of year is favourable to calf births with one animal showing neo natal marks indicating recent birth.

On the 31st having managed to get back to the Canyon systems of the Whittard Canyon we started a track line at the top or shallow end of one canyon and sailed South. Everyone was very tired from sailing through rough weather the previous night and sightings were few initially. 

 

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Pilot whale cow and calf in the Whittard canyon August 31, 2016.

However we did eventually find a pod of about a dozen pilot whales with two calves who swam around the boat and continued in the same direction until we broke from the transect line to follow a number of blows which turned out to be fin whales with common dolphins bow riding the largest fin whale.  The whale appeared to be feeding at depth though we were clearly able to see that the sea was rich with large planktonic salps and siphonophores as large as a football.  Due to incoming bad weather we then preceeded to Camaret in France where we arrived on Friday the 2nd and currently hope to leave again on the 7th.    

Fin whale August 31, 2016 Whittard canyon.

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Crew on board Jessy on arrival in Camaret Friday 2nd.

Jessy in Camaret Marina.