If you cross the English Channel around Dover the journey to the continent is very quick. There’s barely time for a cuppa and a piece of the most expensive toast in the world. But if you head west to Plymouth the voyage time is much longer. It’s at least six hours to France and nearly a full day if you want to reach the shores of Northern Spain. You need a bit of entertainment on a journey of that length. Okay there’s a cinema bars and restaurants. But how would whale watching grab you?
There are Wildlife Officers from a charity called ORCA on some of Brittany Ferries’ sailings to Roscoff and Santander. I’ve met them on the top deck of the Pont Aven. They’re a mine of knowledge, surveying the cetacean population out in the oceans. They are also keen to educate the general public and whet their interest in whale watching. For those who want to take it further they run a marine mammal surveying course to equip people to become citizen scientists. I’m sorely tempted.
My interest was first piqued on a crossing to Santander in June 2018. Apparently the summer months are best for spotting. There’s a point in the Bay of Biscay where the sea floor starts to rise again. It’s here that you’re most likely to see the beasties and yes there they were aplenty. I was excited enough with seeing whales spurting water out of their blow holes in the distance and dolphins surfing in the bow wave of the ship. But then a massive fin whale, the second biggest species in the world popped out from under the boat just underneath us.
So now binoculars are de rigueur on our ferry crossings. The whales and dolphins are eager not to disappoint. I watched one on my most recent crossing, diving and blowing and strutting its stuff. The lovely person from ORCA was on hand to help with identification. ‘That’s a sperm whale.’ she told us. I’m truly hooked.