Out of the 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 the final part of Katrin’s blog below!
The third day was off to a more windy start, not ideal for spotting cetaceans, and it was decided it would be best spent getting more shark footage. The sharks did not keep us waiting long and we were treated to more up close encounters with a number of blue sharks. Apart from these sleek predators, we also got a fleeting glimpse of a decidedly less elegant marine creature, a sunfish, bobbing at the surface between a couple of seagulls before disappearing back into the depths of the ocean.
On the fourth and final day, we woke up to the unexpected sight of land. After having nearly crossed the Celtic Deep to Ireland, we were now back where we started, at the Smalls off the Pembrokeshire Coast. The wind had died down over night and it was as calm as the day we started out. The divers soon set out to film the seals, while we circled in close vicinity on the Ladykate. With the film crew having their hands and flippers full with seals, numerous groups of common dolphins decided that this was the opportune moment to make an appearance! The boat was too slow to hold their interest for very long but we still got great views of them shooting through the water close to the bow. An excellent start to the day and it was to get better still!
As we headed back towards the Smalls, there was a sudden commotion on the starboard side and someone shouted “SHARK!”
This time it was not a blue shark but a juvenile basking shark, swimming slowly past the boat, the tip of the fin just breaking the surface before diving back into the deep.
As the rib returned with the divers, another group of common dolphins appeared in the distance, leaping and breaching and the team decided to head over to them get some underwater footage on their pole cams. They were treated to a spectacular close up show as the dolphins joined them for a bowride, leaping and breaching all around the boat.
In the afternoon, we slowly headed back towards Grassholm, overall very satisfied with our sightings when a sudden breach in front of the boat caught everyone’s attention. More Risso’s dolphins! Unfortunately they disappeared as quickly as they came but as we searched the horizons for signs of their tall dorsal fin we did spot a couple of harbour porpoise and then…. “Is that a minke whale? WHALE!”
An adult minke whale surfaced several times, only a few hundred metres from the boat before cutting across us, close to the bow and affording us great close up views. The animal did not seem particularly disturbed by our presence but we did not want to stay with him too long as not to disturb him and so eventually turned back towards Grassholm. We docked in Milford Haven late that night, both camera crew and scientists equally happy with the outcome of the trip.
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!