MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Oldenburg’ Ilfracombe-Lundy 15 September 2018

Emma Howe-Andrews and Poppy Lakeman-Fraser, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Visibility: Good-Excellent, 16-20km, scattered showers, cloudy with some sunshine  Sea State: SW 3-4

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 2

Auk sp. Alcidae 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 10
Gull sp. 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1

This was my first time in Ilfracombe as I had never been to Lundy Island before and as I made my way to the Lundy Office, I was thinking how picturesque and beautiful the harbour was. With the anchored boats, amazing architecture and stunning coastal cliffs, it really is a lovely place to visit and I was keen to explore it, but the MS Oldenburg awaited me. I will save it for another day!

I had arranged to meet my fellow surveyor, Poppy at the booking office to collect our tickets and this would also be her first trip to Lundy as well as her first survey, so we would both be seeing the island together through fresh eyes. After collecting our tickets and a short introduction we headed to the ship and eagerly joined the rest of the passengers waiting to board the Oldenburg.

As we waited, we saw Rick Morris on the outside deck of the ship, who would be the onboard Wildlife Officer for our trip. We gave him a quick wave, handed our ticket to the Officer as we boarded and headed to the bridge where we introduced ourselves to Jason, the Captain. Whilst Jason gave us an introduction to the layout of the bridge and where to stow our bags, Rick popped his head around to say hello and all of us talked about what the trip may bring and what had been seen recently. At this time, Captain Jason introduced us to his Chief Officer, Mike who would also be working on the bridge today.

With three blasts of her horn, the MS Oldenburg left her berth and headed out into a sea state 4, a 1 metre swell, cloudy, but dry conditions with excellent visibility. As the Oldenburg ploughed through the waves we started our survey and we were joined by a Gannet sweeping across the waves ahead of the ship. As I was stood on the port bridge wing, I heard Rick behind me shout that there were two Harbour Porpoise feeding underneath a group of circling Gannet closer to shore.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 08

Guillemot (Peter Howlett)

As much as I scanned the area with my binoculars, I could not see any breaking fins, but what a good start for Rick and the passengers, brilliant!

We continued our journey and had sightings of rafting Guillemot and a solitary Shag. It wasn't long until our first and only cetacean sighting of the trip was recorded, a brief view of two unidentified dolphin fins breaking the surface 125 metres ahead of the ship moving towards port. It was a very good spot by Poppy as the conditions were challenging due to the south-westerly winds the MS Oldenburg was sailing into. Well done!

We berthed at Lundy and decided to join a guided tour which had been organised by one of the island ambassadors, and after taking in the sights of Grey Seal hauled out on the rocks and breath-taking views it was time to return to the ship. The return journey brought calmer conditions with the sea fluctuating between 3-4, a reduced swell and views of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Lundy Emma Howe Andrews

Lundy (Emma Howe-Andrews)

We continued surveying and before we knew it, we were sailing back into Ilfracombe with the late afternoon sun casting beautiful light across the sea as we made our way back into the harbour. It was a very worthwhile trip as Lundy and its wildlife are stunning and the crew of the MS Oldenburg just wonderful. The crew couldn't have made us feel more welcome and were really interested in our work and accommodating. For me, I would go back to Lundy time and time again just to experience that.

Huge thanks go to Captain Jason, Chief Officer Mike, their crew and the staff of Lundy Booking Office who made this a very enjoyable and memorable crossing with their kind hospitality, and to The Lundy Landmark Trust for their continuing support.

Emma Howe-Andrews and Poppy Lakeman-Fraser; Research Surveyors for MARINElife