MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘MS Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy Saturday 28 July 2018

MARINElife/Lundy WLO Terry Bridgwood

Weather: Cloudy on the way out and sunny on the way back, wind speed 5-6, sea state 6.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal

Storm Petrel
Manx Shearwater
Lesser Black-backed Gull

This was my first trip as the WLO to Lundy Island. My wife and a couple of friends were joining me for the day. We arrived in Ilfracombe on Friday night and found somewhere to camp for the night.

Next morning we went for breakfast at the highly recommended Adele's café. The young staff were covering for the owners who were away for a wedding. The service was prompt and the food excellent, piping hot. The staff were lovely. After breakfast we picked up our tickets from the ticket office and waited to board. Boarding started and I waited until we were underway before I introduced myself to the Captain. Donning my WLO tabard I positioned myself on the upper deck.

Lundy coastguard rescue
Coastguard helicopter approaching the Oldenburg (Terry Bridgwood)

The wind had picked up a bit and it made the crossing a bit lively. The Oldenburg ploughed on through the sea riding the waves, the bow lifting and then dropping. Just over halfway into the crossing one of the passengers fell ill, their condition such that the Coastguard was called. As we neared Lundy Island the Captain slowed the vessel and changed course so that  the Coastguard helicopter could land the winchman on board to ready the patient for airlifting off. Once ready the helicopter returned and the patient whisked off to hospital. The Coastguard and crew of the Oldenburg handled the situation with professionalism and efficiency. It is comforting to realise that the Coastguard are there when you need them.

We continued on to Lundy and disembarked. There were a group of about 8 Grey Seals resting on the rocks at Mouse and Rat islands. We walked up the hill to grab a cuppa and snack in the Marisco Tavern.

My group took a walk to Jenny's Cove as our friends had never seen a Puffin before. We stopped to say hello to the pigs and give them a scratch and it was lovely to see the foal that had been born only days before our previous week-long visit.

Lundy Terry Bridgewood 01-18
Squall approaching Lundy (Terry Bridgwood)

When we reached Jenny's Cove we had to lie down to look through our binoculars as we were nearly blown off our feet. After about 15 minutes I suggested that we headed back as I could see the rain heading towards us. Too late, we were drenched by the time we arrived back at the tavern.

By the time we had boarded the Oldenburg the weather had calmed down a bit, the wind dropped and the sun came out. It didn't take long for our wet clothes to dry. As we left dock the seals were still there bottling and bobbing up and down in the water and the Oystercatchers were calling on the shore. On the journey back we were able to see, Gannet, Fulmar, Shag, guillemot and a variety of gulls, Shag and Guillemot. It was a treat to see Manx Shearwaters gliding just above the waves, rising up and down between the troughs.

Lundy Terry Bridgewood 02-18
Oldenburg alongside at Lundy (Terry Bridgwood)

The return journey was much calmer and everyone seemed to enjoy the sun. The Island's Head Ranger (Dean) travelled back with us for a well-earned holiday. If you live on Lundy where would you go? Dean travelled back on the bridge and was lucky to see a Storm Petrel. Once back in Ilfracombe we all had to disembark swiftly as the crew had to take the Oldenburg to Bideford.

We stayed the night in Ilfracombe and headed home on the Sunday - after another excellent breakfast at Adele's café. They only shut one day a year and are open from 07:30am.