In too Deep?
The windy August weather made sea watching a difficult enterprise for most of the month, with dedicated surveys being few and far between. Luckily with September came calmer seas and a unique opportunity to venture out to sea once more!
As part of a new ITV documentary, the Big Wave Productions team allowed our Wales Development Officer to accompany them on a filming trip into the Celtic Deep to document the unique wildlife found off the Pembrokeshire Coast. Read on to read part two of Katrin’s blog!
Sleeping on a boat is a unique experience, the hum of the engine and movements of the waves never leaving you. If I could, I would sleep on a boat every day! After a great night’s sleep, we woke up to a sumptuous breakfast and a flat expanse of ocean with no land in sight.
The second day belonged to the sharks, not usually the target species of our Sea Watch surveys but nonetheless thrilling. The crew spent the morning chumming with fresh mackerel, creating an oily slick behind the boat. We quickly accumulated a large trail of avian escorts; herring gulls, fulmars, Manx shearwaters and gannets circled the boat expectantly. Looking at the vast stretch of water we were trying to cover, the idea of finding a shark seemed entirely unlikely, en par with finding a needle in a field of haystacks. However, despite our doubts, the first “shark!” shout rang out from the stern of the boat only one or two hours later. While the divers kitted up to jump in and get some underwater footage, several members of the crew grabbed pole cameras to get some footage from the surface while the rest of us hung over the back of the boat, desperate to catch a glimpse of the elusive predator. A couple of minutes later, a small blue dorsal fin sliced through the water, moving in serpentine motions towards the drum containing the bait. Through the clear water we could clearly make out the long narrow head and huge black eyes, a blue shark.
Over the course of the day, we had several more sightings, some times two or three animals at a time, often staying with the boat for over half an hour. “Scarface” and “Whitenose” were particular favourites with the divers- although, Whitenose, the small male, was somewhat less popular with the fulmars that he relentlessly targeted, swimming up underneath them and giving them a fright
Despite the focus on sharks, cetaceans were not entirely forgotten. With the divers in the water and the Ladykate moving only slowly if at all, the rest of the crew and myself had plenty of time to keep a lookout for dolphins and on several occasions, we had groups of common dolphins pass close to the boat, maybe attracted by the shimmering shoals of fish our chum slick was attracting to the side of the boat. As the sun started to set, we even got our first sighting of a pair of harbour porpoise since we set out from Milford Haven.
As the day drew to a close, and we all wandered back into our cabins, non of us could wait to see what the next day had in store for us!
If you want to read more about Katrin’s trip to the Celtic Deep and hear about more exciting sightings, both cetacean and otherwise, stay tuned for part three of this blog!
Interested in getting involved in Sea Watch in Wales? Check out the Welsh Sea Watchers Project and find out more about how you can get involved in cetacean conservation!