Into the North Atlantic

Sightings Archive

Well, it goes to show what can happen when you get it horribly wrong and decide not to get up at 2.30 in the morning to watch us travelling through the Straits of Gibraltar - at a more sensible hour of the morning, a very dedicated passenger reported to us that she and the Captain watched dolphins bow riding and leaping around the ship as we came through this hot spot for cetaceans in the early hours of the morning!

Saturday morning saw us back in the North Atlantic travelling off the coast of Morocco bound for Gran Canaria. The number of Gannets picked up throughout the day and travelling through some deep water areas we were expecting to pick up some of the bigger whale species as well as some of the lesser known Beaked Whales. Our first sighting was of 2 small Mesoplodon type beaked whales with the rostrum clearly visible first as the animals rolled at the surface - however, frustratingly they were rolling away from us so a profile of the head was never completely seen making it virtually impossible to positively identify these animals. A later sighting of another larger Beaked Whale was seen as the animal breached away from us at least 5 times at a distance of about 2 km. The animal was probably a Cuvier's Beaked Whale from it's size - Northern Bottlenose Whale was ruled out as the animal did not have a bulbous melon. Beaked Whales are notoriously difficult to identify and both these sightings highlighted this fact perfectly.

A late sighting of 2 Sperm Whale delighted many of the passengers. The animals were clearly seen blowing ahead of the ship with the characteristic 45 degree blow clearly visible. However, frustratingly they disappeared under the surface before we reached their position.

Sunday brought us 2 new species on this trip. Our first sighting of the day was a very active group of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins which were very energetic in the bow wave.


Atlantic Spotted Dolphin bow-riding

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins were seen again 3 times throughout the day and the biggest group was seen mid-afternoon where at least 50 animals raced in towards the bow. These energetic little dolphins are great fun to watch and really entertained the passengers today.

We sighted one small group of 8 Short-Beaked Common Dolphin who were not overly interested in the ship. They appeared to be travelling and at least 2 of the animals broke away from the group to come into the bow. However, unlike the Atlantic Spotted Dolphins seen today, they did not linger at the bow and quickly fell back behind the ship.

At the same time we were watching the large group of 50 Atlantic Spotted Dolphins racing in to bow-ride, a small group of 5 probable Short-Finned Pilot Whale were seen in the distance. There was at least one Bull in the group who was surging through the water and at least one juvenile also. These animals appeared to be in association with the Atlantic Spotted Dolphins who were at the bow of the vessel at the same time.

We have been picking up many migrant birds still and over the past 2 days we have recorded Song Thrush, Pipit species, Pied and Alba Wagtail, Chiff Chaff and Blackcap on the ship. Seabirds have remained somewhat quiet although today we did record Madeiran Storm Petrel.

Female Blackcap