Silurian Blog

Cetacean Reseacrh Survey: 18th - 29th September

Published: 10/10/2016

18th – Ullapool

19th – Loch Ewe – 34.4nm

20th – Loch Snizort 45.8nm

21st – Loch Greshornish 30.9nm

22nd – Plockton 50.0nm

23rd – Loch Gairloch 39.8nm

24th – Loch Erisort 37.7nm

25th – Loch Drum Baig 41.9nm

26th – Loch Ewe 46.3nm

27th – Little Loch Broom 30.3nm

28th – Ullapool 25.4nm

During our trip we have navigated a total of 382.5nm and in that time we have had a total of 64 sightings. Including:-

  • 6 Common dolphin sightings with 62 individuals
  • 23 Harbour porpoise sightings of 51 individuals
  • 2 Common seals
  • 4 grey seals
  • 29 unidentified to species seals

We also counted a total of 612 creels.

Interested in joining us aboard in 2017? Click here to find out more.

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Saturday 24th September

Published: 10/10/2016

58 ˚06’.353N
06 ˚25’.021W

From Tob Cromore to Loch Erisort

We woke up this morning to porridge for breakfast and ended with haggis for dinner. A lovely day overall, full of beautiful scenery and marine encounters. The sea was beaming with dolphin whistles, which was thrilling to hear. The waves were quite agitated so we had difficulty spotting them by sight, but hearing them underwater through the hydrophone was magic. We came across wonderful birds, two common dolphins, a harbour porpoise, and best of all a sleeping seal which was awoken to the Mint shouting sighting at it!

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Friday 23rd September

Published: 10/10/2016

After a good and long night we started the day again with six volunteers. It is a relief to have Jan on board as it makes things much easier having a sixth person on board! At the beginning the sea was quite smooth and we were able to enjoy the nice scenery although… there were quite a lot of creels to call. Alex took a chance to climb into the crow’s nest. She was really enjoying herself up there and we almost forgot to take her down again. As Silurian was gliding over the water and the sea got rougher, we thought that it might be difficult to see any animals. To our surprise, all of a sudden we seemed to be surrounded by Harbour Porpoises. We obviously were sailing through a Harbour Porpoise hotspot. We recorded them six times (and a seventh time later on), they were swimming in a group of about 10 animals at least twice, which is apparently quite uncommon. We think we saw around 20 Harbour Porpoises today – that’s definitively a highlight! As we sailed on the weather got tougher and rough – Frazer was doing his kitchen dance and fiddling with the knifes, luckily no one got killed so far! We safely arrived at Shieldaig, Loch Gairloch and are enjoying Jan’s cooking.

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Thursday 22nd September

Published: 10/10/2016

Today we covered 50.0 miles going from Loch Diu Baig to Plockton. Since the weather forecast promised rather strong winds in the afternoon we had a quite early start around 7:15 a.m. Imagine a blue sky, a mild wind, lots of sunshine and absolutely lovely views. That was our start into the day. Shortly after starting our survey several common dolphins crossed our way. Followed shortly by another group of the same species. So within the first hour we got to see two pods of common dolphins with a total of 22 animals. During the rest of the day we had further sightings of 4 seals as well as 7 Harbour Porpoises. Unexpectedly the weather stayed really fine, with the wind freshening up a bit so we had a really nice trip and arrived early at Plockton. Being short of 1 volunteer we’re quite happy to pick up Jan who joins us on really short notice. So, now we’re waiting for dinner and looking forward to spend more days on Silurian with lots of sightings and hoping for good weather.

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Wednesday 21st September

Published: 10/10/2016

57 ˚30’.120N
06 ˚27’.541W

We had an early set off for Uig to drop off one of the volunteers, who needed to leave the boat. We remained there for long enough to have our 2 breakfasts at the same time and we gave bacon butties to the crew of the vessel we were tied alongside. Once food was sorted we headed out into the bay and went on effort. Standing by the mast in the swell was like being on a roller coaster, rocking from side to side. Sightings were few with only one harbour porpoise and 2 seals seen although there were 12 harbour porpoises heard acoustically. On the upside, all of us volunteers are becoming more adept at eating in the strong winds and not covering our colleagues with food. Due to the weather conditions we remained in slightly more sheltered waters. Conditions deteriorated through the day until we had heavy ‘liquid sunshine’ and on reaching our intended anchorage we came off effort. Several attempts at securing the anchor failed so we returned to the same bay as last night and successfully anchored. As dusk descended, the light was really special and then we were joined by 5 inquisitive seals, who had clearly smelt the delicious Thai curry cooked by Mint. The evening ended with a game, involving killing members of the Silurian village.

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Tuesday 20th September

Published: 10/10/2016


Loch Ewe to Loch Snizort

We started the day with the nice breakfast together following with sea birds identification session with Frazer. Everybody were ready at their own position when Silurian started sailing off from Loch Ewe, it was quite a windy morning. The currents were getting stronger in the afternoon, made it difficult to stay in the front mart, so we were moving to the crew deck instead and trying to spot the mammals from there. We found that eating the foods while we’re on duty on the windy deck is challenging (We suggested not to use spoon for soup, it’s better to drink directly from the mug. And check your jacket after the meal, you may reckon flying soup from someone’s cup. :p) Even we went through the tough day but fortunately before reaching at Loch Snizort on the Isle of the Skye, we did sight 7 harbour porpoises and 3 seals, thumb up for Andrea (even she got a sea-sickness but with the quick instinct she yelled ‘sighting’ after saw a sneaky little porpoise), Colombina, Priscilla and Frazer. After the rough day we anchored at the beautiful loch in the Isle of Skye, went up to see the sunset from the cliff and ended the day with a wonderful dinner.

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Monday 19th September

Published: 10/10/2016


Camas Alt Eoin Thomais – Loch Ewe

Today the Silurian left from Ullapool with pleasant weather and new volunteers hopeful for their first sightings and they were not disappointed. Two seals were spotted at the start of the day. Then, later in the day when hopes were fading, a pod of 35 common dolphins appeared and began bow riding. They remained for twenty-five minutes swimming alongside the boat. The Silurian reached Camas Alt Eoin Thomais (Loch Ewe) and anchored for the night.

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Ullapool Floating Classroom 2016

Published: 04/10/2016

Comments by the primary school children, summing up their experiences whilst on board Silurian.

Silurian at sunset, alongside Ullapool pontoons

Day 1 – 12/09/2016
Ullapool Primary School
Group 1 - P5/6
I enjoyed looking at the whales in the photo ID – Louis
I enjoyed listening to the noises on the computer and spinning the steering wheel. – Morgan
I enjoyed laughing about the noises. I want to come again. I like shouting sightings! – Josh
The noises and looking around. – Sean
I loved the bed and when we did the practice sightings. I would love to be a volunteer and do real sightings. – Lana
I enjoyed my time on the Silurian. I never knew what orcas sounded like. – Finlay
I liked the fact that you got bunks and you have computers and that there was loads of buttons and you could stand at the top of the mast. I want to work here. – Arwen
I enjoyed listening to the sounds on the computer and walking to the end of the bow-sprit. – Sasha

I liked going around the boat and the beds. I learnt that dolphins give their babies special names when they are born and that is what they are called for life. – Paige

Group 2 - GP5-7
It made laugh when I heard the sounds. – Erin
I liked the computers. – Jake
I liked the stuff above deck like looking for things and I learnt how to spot them. – Iona
I learnt how noisy it is underwater. I will remember the noises they make. – Nuala
Very fun. I enjoyed the whale spotting/bird. I learnt that the different dots on the computer mean different things. – Caillin
I liked listening to the whale and dolphin and I will remember this because it was fun. – Lael
I liked the noises, I liked the smell of food, I liked the crew. – Skip
I learnt that it can be tiring on the boat. In five years I might come on (if I have the money). – Velvet
I liked the listening to the noises and the smell of the food. – Fionn

Day 2 - 13/09/2016
Group 1 - P6/7
I liked the thing were we doing the quiz downstairs and upstairs. – Findbay
I enjoyed the search so we know were things are. – Georgia
I learnt some noises from underwater. When you see an animal underwater you say sighting. – Kai
I enjoyed the trip because it was very inspiring and I really want to volunteer when I am older. – Poppy
I enjoyed listening to all the sounds. – Catriona
I enjoyed going around the boat looking at all the different things. – Kaden
It was amazing. I want to live on the boat and I learnt where everything was and I saw pictures and sounds. – Layia

I liked hearing the whales and dolphins on the hydrophone. I also enjoyed doing the whale sorting. – Megan
Students learning how to spot cetaceans

Group 2 - P6/7
I enjoyed today. Today was very good and fun. I liked it so much. – Amy
I liked learning about the special names for the different things on the boat. – Eilidh
I learnt how they reported sightings. – Beth
I learnt about cetaceans – Fuaz
I enjoyed hearing the whales. I learnt about new species. I had good fun. I will remember about dolphins. – Danny
I learnt new words, and had fun when we shouted species we saw (even though they were cars). – Emma
I like that they ate lots and lots. I learnt what noises the cetaceans make. I enjoyed the acoustic survey and the visual survey. – Ivan
I learnt about how to know sounds and recognise what dolphin is what. – Ciaran

Today I learnt about when we see a killer whale we have to say sighting! – Lachlan

Group 3 – P5-7
I learnt how you spot them on top on the deck, and you have to shout sightings and tell them what you saw and what angle it’s at. You also look through a piece of equipment to find out how many meters away it is. – Heather
I learnt another two types of whale. I liked the whale and dolphin search. – Fraser
I liked looking out for the dolphin and whale. – Marc
My favourite part of today was listening to noises. – Chloe
Today was fun because I learnt how to spot dolphins. – Ben
I enjoyed the Silurian a lot. I especially enjoyed listening to the noises and exploring the ship. – James
I liked the one when we were shouting. – Sean
I liked listening to whales and dolphin sounds. – Aidan

I liked looking on the deck for things. – Catherine

Day 3 – 14/09/2016
Group 1 - P5/6
I enjoyed listening on the hydrophone. – Scott
I enjoyed shouting sighting loud. – Laura
I liked the boat. It was nice and it was really big. My favourite part was pulling up the sail and looking for things on the sheet. - Unknown
I liked putting the flag up. – Don
I liked putting up the sail. – Vanessa
I enjoyed listening to the sound. Rheo
I liked everything. I learnt about white nosed dolphins and how to tell the difference between each dolphin. – Unknown
I liked seeing a porpoise. – Shannon

I liked when we made up that porpoise in a shop. I learnt noises. Today was a cool day. – Scott

Group 2 - Badcaul and Scoraig Primary Schools
I learnt how big a basking shark can grow. – Joe
I learnt all the special words of all the things on the boat. – Nathaniel
I liked learning about John Coe. – Jack
I learnt how to use the hydrophone. – Daniel
I enjoyed exploring the boat. – Meredith
I liked going outside. – Rowan
I liked being outside. – Rowan W

I liked listening to the sounds. – Luke

Children learning about the hydrophone
Day 4 – 15/09/2016
Lochinver and Achiltiebuie Primary Schools
Group 1 - P5-7
I enjoyed listening to whales and dolphins. Naming a whale Blue Fin. – Ella
I liked when we were looking at different the explore Silurian – Molly
I enjoyed seeing the bunkbeds and the kitchen and the – James
We have had to find a fridge. – Oliver
I love your boat. – Annabelle
I really liked exploring the boat it was really fun, and learning about different noises of whales/dolphins and where people stay and how they work! – Ellie
I enjoyed wandering about the boat. – Nathan
I will remember the sighting and how to do it. :) - Lacey

Group 2 - P4
I enjoyed seeing the Sammy seal. It was great. – Bronia
I liked the boat. – Grace
I learnt animal noises. – Jacob
I liked seeing the seal. – Ben
I enjoyed finding the bedrooms. I found everything inspiring. – Lexie
I liked seeing King Fatty. (the seal) – Ellis
I liked seeing King Fatty. (the seal) – Seumas

Group 3 - P6/7
I liked all the interaction and exploring the boat. – Finlay
I liked the noises of the dolphins. – Xavi
I enjoyed the sighting. – Georgia
I enjoyed listening and learning the sounds of cetaceans and boats and other things. – Robert
Today was very exciting because we got to experience what it was like to live on Silurian. J - Isla
I enjoyed when we were looking at the different noises of dolphins and whales. – Ruby
I liked looking for cetaceans. – Kevin
I enjoyed looking for the veg and fridge etc. I would really like to volunteer some day. – Anna

Day 5 – 16/09/2016
Group 1 - P6/7
I liked the noises. I liked the minke whale noise. – Millie
I learnt that one of the lower echolocation is the blue whale. – Alasdair
I learnt that boats and fish farms made noises on the hydrophone. – Ali
I liked listening to the sounds of the animals. :) - Annabel
I learnt the sounds of whales and dolphins and how they communicate. – Alexander
It was very interesting and fun! And I liked everything. – Max
I enjoyed hearing all the different sounds from whales and dolphins. – Joe
I liked listening on the computer to the different species noises. I have learnt all the sounds today. Daniel

Group 2 - P4-6
I enjoyed looking for the different things on board. – Calum
I will definitely remember how to sight different cetaceans. I loved learning about it. Thank you! – Isabelle
I liked everything it was very fun. – Freya
I liked everything on the boat. – Zoe
My favourite noise was the harbour porpoise buzzing and telling their babies off. – John
It made me laugh when I heard the noises on the computers. Fantastic day! – Millie
I enjoyed being on the deck. – Duncan
I enjoyed learning the different noises of the animals. – Toby
I learnt the noises. – Kieron

Younger students learning about the different species

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Friday 9th September

Published: 19/09/2016

We got up early and left Loch Roe with the intention of sailing back to Ullapool via the Summer Isles, as the weather forecast was severe gale force 9 and we needed to remain reasonably close to the mainland. We moored up at the Isles for a cup of tea but an emergency call on the radio from the coastguard alerted us to a fisherman in trouble nearby. He had got his propeller stuck in rope from his lobster pot. Frazer whizzed out on the zodiac to go and assist, whilst we followed in the Silurian.
The rope was rather mangled round the propeller but sterling work from Frazer and a knife helped free the fisherman who promised to make a donation to the Trust. We then went ashore for a lovely walk on one of the Summer Isles, with beautiful views over the bay. On our return, we were lucky enough to find two lobster from the fisherman on the boat. Sadly, that marked the last stop on our travels before the journey back to Ullapool. We had a deep clean of the boat, followed by a final meal out in Ullapool.

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Thursday 8th September

Published: 19/09/2016

Today was an epic day of sailing from Broad Bay, across the Minch to Loch Roe. With a strong swell and occasional winds of gale force 8, it was a difficult day for sightings but we still had the pleasure of sailing with around 4 common dolphins who came to play on the bow of the boat for around 45 minutes, jumping straight out of the water at times. Loch Roe was a beautiful anchorage, with a large number of grey and common seals visible on the rocks. We had time for a quick walk ashore before a couple of brave souls went for a quick dip in the water before dinner.

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Wednesday 7th September

Published: 19/09/2016

Good weather conditions meant we set off early (just after 8am) for a long day of surveying round the Butt of Lewis and then into Broad Bay. The morning started with sightings of a large number of gannets, sooty shearwaters and even a few puffins in their winter plumage. Cetaceans wise, we started by seeing a few white-beaked dolphins, followed by a pod of common dolphins. Then just as we rounded the Butt, we had our first encounter with a minke whale – a majestic animal which left some in the party literally jumping up and down with delight! We ended the day with some more white-beaked dolphins, with one taking a dive under the Silurian. As we came to moor up, we carefully navigated our way past the 1 kilometre exclusion zone around the oil rig which recently made national news after the it was washed up on the West coast of Lewis. This gave us a chance to hear any noise coming from the rig on the hydrophone. We also picked up noise in the bay from harbour porpoise on the hydrophone although we didn’t make any sightings. In the evening, we had a talk from Frazer about the acoustics.

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Tuesday 6th September

Published: 19/09/2016

After having a relaxed breakfast, with a view over Traigh na Berie beach, we set off for a day exploring Loch Roag and a tour of Great Bernera. Strong winds, including gusts of force 8, limited the opportunity for sightings or sailing so after lunch we stopped at the Callanish standing stones where we were able to take a group photo and enjoy beautiful views over Loch Ceann Hulavig. We moored up in Bernera harbour - to the north of Great Bernera but sheltered by Little Belnera - and finished the day with a plankton party, finding all sorts of interesting beasties through the microscope such as planktonic worms and copepoda.

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Monday 5th September

Published: 19/09/2016

We awoke in the bay between Scarp and Kearstay and immediately wanted to explore the beach and cave surrounding us. We set off toward Lewis at 10:45am. The weather forecasted Gale 8 winds so the Skipper wanted to keep us somewhat close to the coast and out of the open ocean. We were fortunate to escape the rains but the winds had 3 metre waves which were not ideal for sightings, we didn’t see anything other than birds. The winds however were perfect for sailing. We covered 33 NM and ended up in Shiaram Mor at 16:30.

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Sunday 4th September

Published: 19/09/2016

We awoke to an idyllic calm morning with glassy water and what was thought to be an otter swimming in the bay. The day remained perfect for sightings with mild, warm weather and flat seas. We headed across the Minch though the Sound of Harris and were treated to nonstop sightings all day.
Our destination was Borve Bay but there were too many rolling waves for a comfortable night so we continued on to Scarp which added another hour and a half to an already long day. In route we spotted a two-time breach of an unidentified species. With all eyes peeled we spotted three lots of Risso Dolphins. In the end we nestled into a breath-taking bay with rock cliffs on two sides that would offer protection from the winds. With an exhausted crew we had an early night but not without noting the phosphorescence in the water. The strong winds kept some of us awake for much of the night as it blew down the mast and rattled the boat.

Sightings included:
Common Dolphins – 5 lots totalling 172 individuals
Gray Seals – 11
Harbour Porpoises – 26 lots totalling 82
Common Seal – 2

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Saturday 3rd September

Published: 19/09/2016

We were all up bright and early with order to leave the Ullapool pier by 8:30am. Straight away we spotted a grey seal who was bottling in the harbour by the ferry terminal. We were moored in the Ullapool bay by 8:20 where we received boat safety and sighting training. Silurian departed Ullapool around 11am and everyone assumed position “on effort”. Our direction was south with southerly winds headed through the upper Minch toward Gairloch where we would moor for the evening. Around 16:00 we had a great treat as a pod of six Common Dolphins raced with Silurian, bow riding and breaching. This delighted us all and reenergized our efforts.
Throughout the day we counted five grey seals and had four sightings of Harbour Porpoises totalling nine individuals. As we were entering Badachro, Silurian got a call from a previous two-time volunteer Tibor who had just passed his radio license. Tibor wanted to let us know of a super-pod of dolphins that were in the bay. Just then we spotted a few in the distance and suddenly we were witnessing at least 20 Common Dolphins leaping and breaching on both sides of the boat. Once the entertainment was over, we turned back and anchored down in the most beautiful bay at 18:30. After a delicious meal of mackerel that a fisherman in Ullapool gave us and curry by Caren, we took a quick trip to the Badachro pub for a few well deserved beers.

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Sunday 28th August

Published: 06/09/2016
End of Survey 7 - thanks to all the fantastic volunteer who made it possible!

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Thursday 25th August

Published: 06/09/2016

Arrived last night at Vatersay Bay. Proof (don't think we need it though, we already know) that there are nutters on the boat - 2 loons jumped off the back (surprise surprise I don't think -