Posts Tagged ‘Pont Aven


Orca – an organisation worth joining

It’s always difficult to see everything when you go on an organised tour. Inevitably someone will see more than you do and the group as a whole will always see more than the individual. Sharon, Andrew and I travelled down from Portsmouth to Santander last week with ORCA – a worthwhile charitable organisation that takes the care of the seas, whales, dolphins and porpoises to its heart. Their website is worth checking out

Although the group saw more than us, we saw the following:

1 Fin Whale

4 Sperm Whales

2 Cuvier’s Beaked Whales

Circa 200+ Common Dolphin

Circa 20 Striped Dolphin

10+ Bottlenose Dolphin

3 Ocean Sunfish

Cory’s Shearwaters coming out of our ears

Gannets Galore

30+ Manx Shearwater

4 Sandwich Terns

1 Common Tern

2 Cormorant

1 Shag

Loads of Herring Gulls

Loads of Yellow Legged Gulls

2 Mediterranean Gulls

10+ Black Headed Gulls

2 Common Gulls


In our 2 hours in a Santander Park we had

2 Black Kite

Wood Pigeon

2 Swift

4 White Wagtail

Blue Tit

Black Redstart (heard only)


Chiffchaff (heard)


House Sparrow



In terms of what is usually seen it was a relatively poor crossing with low numbers of cetaceans and no Killer Whales or Pilot Whales seen at all along with very few seabird species. However, these cruises take place all summer and numbers do increase later in the year. We’ll be doing at least one next year (in one form or another) so if you are interested in joining the same cruise as Sharon and I let us know.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale 2

Fin Whale Common Dolphin

Sunfish Gannet Corys Shearwater



A lottery

The Bay of Biscay is a large place. Travelling at 25 knots on the French ship the Pont Aven this week it took us 12 hours to cross from the Ushant Isles in the north to the port of Santander on the north Spanish coast. We were looking for whales. We found some.

It has to be said we didn’t find many. However, we’re talking quality here not quantity. We were seeking Cuvier’s Beaked Whales. These denizens of the deep are one of nature’s curiosities. Able to dive and feed at depths we can only imagine, these are the free-divers of the deep seas. One has been recorded at a depth of almost 3km – deeper than any other mammal. Finding one is not easy. They spend relatively little time on the surface compared with the time they forage in the deep oceanic trenches and canyons offshore. Seeing one next to our unstoppable ship close enough to photograph was against the odds. Having a little time with one as it swam with the ship rather than against our direction of travel was asking a lot. Being on the correct side of the ship when one appears you would have to be lucky. It’s a lottery.

Having been on deck since 5am it was now 3:30pm. We had almost given up. We were in sight of the Spanish coast and I was beginning in my mind to plan next year’s trip to Santander.

Then, as is inevitably the case, something happens when you least expect it. Friend Andrew and I were staring down at the rippling sea being parted by the bows when an object rose just below us. As the waves and the gloom parted it became the unmistakable long shape and tan colour of a male Cuvier’s Beaked Whale. It raised its white head from the water revealing the two small tusks at the distal end of its lower jaw and arched its back to show the myriads of white scars from jousting with other males. It was travelling with the boat and gave us opportunity to observe the animal in some detail. What a marvellous sighting.

They say lightening doesn’t strike twice … but it did. Another male rose up from the deep 10 minutes later. Sometimes you do win the lottery.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

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Jun 2023


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