Wow what a day! The dreaded haar greeted us at on the morning ferry and stuck around for the majority for the day, however we had a lovely sighting of an otter in John O’ Groats harbour, which was a first for many on the boat. As it was the 1st June, there were two additional ferries running to Burwick, meaning double the chance of seeing orca from the boat! Up until the 4pm ferry, the weather was rather dire and despite the fact we had a couple of encounters with harbour porpoise, you could feel the anticipation in the air and the weight of so many people hoping for orca before the end of orca watch.
As the last ferry left Burwick and headed back to John O’ Groats, the sea was a lovely and calm and the haar had all but vanished, leaving behind a beautiful sunset over Stroma. Observer Steve Truluck received a call from an orca watcher at Duncansby Head who told him there were orca heading straight for us! After some clarification on where the killer whales were and where they were heading, we managed to see some orca through the binoculars heading north east on the edge of what remained of the haar. What we didn’t realise is that due to a miscommunication we actually had managed to spot an entirely different group of killer whales to what watchers at Duncansby Head were seeing. After catching up with this group of four animals (one a youngster!) and attempted some photo ID shots, we headed back towards John O’ Groats, entirely unaware that another group of killer whales were heading towards us. Moments later, skipper Ivor received a phone call alerting us to the killer whales and before we knew it they were right off the front of the boat – we managed to count around 5 individuals before they dived below us and continued up towards Scapa flow.
People on the boat were full of emotion, with some people having never seen killer whales before this trip despite many previous attempts. Despite the main aim of Orca Watch being to collect valuable effort and sightings data on the killer whales and other cetaceans around the Pentland Firth, it really is so rewarding to see the public getting so much enjoyment from these free, wild killer whales.
The whole boat hummed with excitement and energy as we headed back into the harbour, somewhat later than previously planned. With one day left to go, we all have our fingers crossed for some final fantastic sightings tomorrow.
By Chloe Robinson