Silurian Blog

Wednesday 23rd July 2014

Published: 25/07/2014

Edge of the… Outer Hebrides?
Lat: 57 00.5 Long: 007 23.7
 Anchorage: Barra Sound

Day two began with a brisk start, following an introduction to many of us on bird species.  This helped us identify the species of birds and how this could indicate cetacean presence.  The sailing started at 10:30 and continued until 17:15. In this time we managed to travel 53.9 miles making our total journey 87.9 miles so far.  On the journey travelling from Tiree to the North of Barra we experienced some large Atlantic swell, and very interesting coast scenery by travelling between Berneray and Mingulay.  

Although expectations were high for sightings, very little were spotted until the last 45 minutes of sailing.  Despite this 6 porpoises were detected on the hydrophone (underwater acoustic sound detector.) The only marine mammals spotted were seal variations although large splashes were believed to be dolphins or whale species although they were, and cannot be confirmed.  

Many of us new to the Atlantic ocean had expected to receive their sea legs by this point in the journey but were surprised and disappointed to discover that this was not the case and the Atlantic waves had an annoying effect on our stomachs.  

In total we managed to spot 2 regular seals, 13 grey seals and 2 unknown dolphins.  After a good 8 hours hard at work we are now moored in the sound of Barra with a surprising amount of seals investigating the boat.  

Early in the day we found a stowaway at the bow of the boat in the form of a pied wag tail, this was unusual since this was a landbird, 25 miles away from land.  We must have brought him from Tiree by mistake.   Hopefully he won’t mind living in Barra.  

Silurian out.



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Thursday 24th July 2014

Published: 25/07/2014

Day 3
Lat: Long:
Distance Travelled:
Barra boys and baby Risso’s

Day 3 started off with the sound of Cat Stevens and the rest of Kerrys ‘morning’ playlist. It was perfect weather for sightings and we all started the day full of anticipation, sensing we were finally going to get lucky. Sure enough, 9 or 10 Bottlenose Dolphins including a calf took a keen interest in the Silurian, wowing us with their sick aerial skills and bowriding for a good half hour. We got some great photos for identification and a long clear recording on the hydrophone. This definitely made up  for the two previous days of seeing nothing but grey seals and thousands of fulmars and we would have been happy if this was the only sighting of the day, but soon later we also saw three Risso’s Dolphins, including another calf! Although they were a lot more elusive than the Bottlenoses we saw earlier, we did manage to get some rare, high-quality recordings.

Later on we had a possible Minke Whale sighting. Although we would have loved to have seen one up close, it was not to be and we couldn’t confirm the sighting. Even so, we had a fantastic day with beautiful weather and some great sightings. We hope our luck continues to hold up!



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Wednesday 23rd July 2014

Published: 25/07/2014

Edge of the… Outer Hebrides?
Lat: 57 00.5 Long: 007 23.7
 Anchorage: Barra Sound

Day two began with a brisk start, following an introduction to many of us on bird species.  This helped us identify the species of birds and how this could indicate cetacean presence.  The sailing started at 10:30 and continued until 17:15. In this time we managed to travel 53.9 miles making our total journey 87.9 miles so far.  On the journey travelling from Tiree to the North of Barra we experienced some large Atlantic swell, and very interesting coast scenery by travelling between Berneray and Mingulay.  

Although expectations were high for sightings, very little were spotted until the last 45 minutes of sailing.  Despite this 6 porpoises were detected on the hydrophone (underwater acoustic sound detector.) The only marine mammals spotted were seal variations although large splashes were believed to be dolphins or whale species although they were, and cannot be confirmed.  

Many of us new to the Atlantic ocean had expected to receive their sea legs by this point in the journey but were surprised and disappointed to discover that this was not the case and the Atlantic waves had an annoying effect on our stomachs.  

In total we managed to spot 2 regular seals, 13 grey seals and 2 unknown dolphins.  After a good 8 hours hard at work we are now moored in the sound of Barra with a surprising amount of seals investigating the boat.  

Early in the day we found a stowaway at the bow of the boat in the form of a pied wag tail, this was unusual since this was a landbird, 25 miles away from land.  We must have brought him from Tiree by mistake.   Hopefully he won’t mind living in Barra.  

Silurian out.



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Tuesday 22nd July 2014

Published: 24/07/2014

Whales and dolphins and sharks and sunfish…
Lat: 56º 31’ 408 N
Long: 6º 52’ 889 W
Anchorage: Tiree
Distance Travelled: 34 nautical miles  

… Are yet to be sighted. But we can’t complain: On the very first day we have seen 16 seals and a porpoise, and collected a great recording of the porpoise.

We also saw some stunning Scottish scenery, and a load of birds. Way too many birds.  Upon arriving, we were bombarded with information.  However, we managed to filter out a few orders, like “Clean the toilets” or “Write a blog post” which were not what we wanted to hear.

Everyone became aware of the existence of a lot of cetaceans that we’re pretty sure Kerry just made up, like the South-Hamptonish Minky Red Striped Porpoise. The boat cabins are too hot (Scotland is having a sudden heat wave!) and too small but the duvets are not stained.

So far the weather has been forgiving, due to our regular sacrifices to the wind gods. We’ve been treated to some Deep House, courtesy of CF the Cool Frood. which was ham and decent. (This apparently means ‘Cool’ in teen talk?)

We are currently anchored off the coast of Tiree, drinking in the beautiful beaches like delicious malt whisky. Mmmmmmmmmm. With all this put together we honestly have nothing to “whale” about! (booo) Silurian out.  



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Thursday 17th July 2014

Published: 20/07/2014

Lat: 56° 45.236 N
Long: 05° 54.264 W
Anchorage: Loch Ceann Traigh
Distance: 61 miles in 10 hours 56.4 seconds

A visit from Gwendoline.

Grey seal 21, Harbour porpoise 22, Minke 2, unidentified dolphin 3, Common dolphin 2, White beaked dolphin 1, S E 8 and Common seal 2

We woke to a much calmer and thoroughly more pleasant outlook for the day ahead. Sadly the Barra Boys and Girls didn’t make an appearance for breakfast, or provide a leaving party as we sailed out of the Sound of Barra. Though we did spot a heron and Golden eagle as we left our mooring. However the glorious weather and sea state made sure we didn't feel too down hearted about not seeing the bottlenose, as we seemed to glide effortlessly out in to the Minch in almost perfect sighting conditions.

A harbour porpoise or two made an appearance and we settled in to the beautiful crystal clear waters. It was much easier to see all the different types of jelly fish ranging from large lion mane to small moon specimens.

Then the fun began all over again as we reached a patch of shallower water. First it was two seals then some dolphins, but they didn’t come to bow ride and our first minke of the day.
It was confusing at first, seeing multiple dolphin fins, and then a minke, thinking did we really see dolphins as well? But the hydrophone confirmed it andwe got a white beaked dolphin recording to prove it!

The minke sighting was one of the most amazing experiences…. At first it was fairly stealthy and we were unsure whether we wouldget closeenough for photoID. That soon changed. The minke was surfacing right next to the boat, too close for pictures to be taken of the dorsal fin at times. Some of us can now say that we got minke blow in our faces (water vapour from the blowhole as it surfaces), that is an experience we won’t forget!! It got better, the minke was playing with Silurian, rolling under the water so we saw its white underside, bowriding, swimming under the boat from side to side. After some length of time, Kerry decided we should leave this minke alone, but it didn’t want to be left, it tried to keep up with us, frantically swimming, in the end it tired and we left the amazingly sociable minke. What an encounter!

The sea state improved to nearly perfect sighting conditions, however the second minke we encountered was not playing game, and so photo id was harder.

We arrived at our mooring Loch Ceann Traigh, with a fairly quick and at first extremely cold swim in the clear waters, all taking care to avoid the jellyfish. Although we had a delicious, warming curry with all the extras looking on a beautiful, picturesque sunset.


This has been a wonderful day with Gwendoline.


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Wednesday 16th July 2014

Published: 19/07/2014

At least we tried!
Anchorage: The sound of Barra (something seems familiar)
Lat: 57° 0,582 N
Long: 07° 23,803 W
Distance: 16 miles in 2 hours 32.5 seconds

Once again the weather was not on our side, as the wind was forecast to pick up. After another long lie, and a gentile breakfast we set about trying to photo id the minke whales from our previous encounters. This proved not as easy as the killer whales. Partly due to the greater number of previously photographed minkes (there’s a HWDT database with around 130 individuals), but also due to the fact that even though each individual fin does have distinguishing marks, notches and scaring, some of which are natural, others caused by boats and entanglement in ropes and discarded fishing nets, it is very difficult to make a definite identification to the untrained eye.

Finally the wind died down and we set out for a coastal survey, meaning we stayed close to the coastline of Barra and neighboring islands. As the water was shallow it meant the hydrophone was not put out. At first the conditions were not too bad, but gradually the rain became heavier and the wind more changeable. Lunch at the mast was entertaining, and involved a very tasty butternut squash and sweet potato risotto, with added natural sea salt from the occasional large wave! There were many gannets also enjoying their lunch, with groups of the birds diving on a regular basis round the boat. However the Barra Boys, a fairly well known group of bottlenose dolphins (who despite their nickname, are not all male!) proved to be hiding, and we have yet been able to tick them off of our rather long sighting list.

As the sea state worsened we headed back in to the Sound of Barra and moored up not far from where we’d left off. Katie who has been suffering with tooth ache went for a lie down with a hot water bottle to help ease the pain. Kerry had the brilliant idea of making her a recycled ‘Seal well soon’ purse, which we all helped decorate and a lot more thought was given to two new boat based games. Hungry Narwhals was transformed in to a finger version using a cardboard egg box pod and little paper squid. We have also devised a board game, based on getting your boat to St Kilda from Tobermory, via various different routes, incorporating sightings (which mean points), storm-bound cards (forfeits), tide-line cards (questions) and all manner of other nautical themed obstacles.


The smell of this evening lasagne is now proving too distracting and the table needs to be cleared ready for dinner.


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Tuesday 15th July 2014

Published: 19/07/2014

Calm day, crazy afternoon
Anchorage: The sound Barra
Lat: 57° 0,582 N
Long: 07° 23,803 W
Distance: 67.1 miles


The morning started out promising with harbour porpoise sightings and grey and common seal sightings. After these sightings though, it died a bit down and we did not have another sighting for almost the rest of the day and we started to fear that we would not see much of anything today. It wasn't until we were about 45 minutes from our anchorage in Barra, that we saw our next sighting… a Minke! From that point on things started to go absolutely crazy. Shouts were coming from all around the boat... "sighting Minke!" At one point we had about four minkes around the boat, which made Kerry and Tom just about crazy, since they were trying to get photo ID for all of them. Just when you think things cannot get more hectic then this, we also had several harbour porpoise sightings together with the minke sightings and gannets were diving into the water all around us. We all got really excited when we saw a baby harbour porpoise and soon after a whole group of them foraging around the boat. We even managed to get photos of these harbour porpoises. After about an hour and a half we decided to continue our survey thinking the excitement had died down a bit, but we were then faced with 4 more minke whales and then minutes before we anchored we had loads of grey seal sightings.

So, even though we saw little during most of the 11 hour and 20 minute day, in total we had: 9 harbour porpoise detection's on the hydrophone, 8 grey seal sightings (18 individuals), one unknown dolphin, 5 harbour porpoise sightings (11 individuals) and 4 minke sightings (at least 8 individuals).


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Monday 14th July 2014

Published: 19/07/2014

Day 6
Serenity on toast? You can only pick one word.
Lat: 57°29’2N
Long: 6°26’6W
Anchorage: Loch Greshornish Distance: a couple of meters drifting in the strong winds

After yesterdays really ‘uneventful’ day, the weather turned against us, we generally could do with recharging our batteries, as so we found ourselves having a storm bound day. Which if we hadn’t had such an outstanding couple of days it could have been seen as a bit of a dull thing to do. However having been so lucky with our seasons worth of sightings in five days, and a much needed lie in, we planned various activities.

The morning started with an informative presentation from Kerry explaining how important the research data we’re collecting is, and how great it is that HWDT now has 12 years of sighting data collected by volunteers aboard Silurian. The data is extremely useful, showing the densities and distribution of harbour porpoise are, and which parts of  their habitat should not be disturbed. We also learnt that there have only been a handful of Killer Whale sightings over the ten years and we were lucky enough to spend two hours with four of them.

The second activity, which had not yet, at the time of writing, reached its full conclusion, involved writing down one word which remind us of the journey so far. These words were then placed into Kerry’s flat cap, and we had to randomly pick one and create an art project.

We also used the photo id catalogue of Killer Whales spotted in Scottish, Irish and Welsh waters to identify the individuals we saw yesterday. We were sure we had seen John Coe, due to his very distinctive dorsal fin nick, and decided that he was travelling with Money Penny and Lulu. The second male we positively identified was Aquarius.

We then had a couple of rounds of Twenty questions, where we chose a random playing card with a picture of a cetacean or pinniped, held it to our forehead and tried to guess which one you were. This soon turned into us trying to mimic the animals movements and sounds, to be followed by charades.

The team got down to making their art creations, while Stuart cooked lunch. Further card games ensued while Kerry feverously prepared a fabulous North African and Middle Eastern feast after which, with very full stomachs we settled down to an evening of cultural entertainment.

With stories of local Sea Kelpies legend, beautiful drawings of our previous encounters with puffins, cetaceans and card games, a poem entitled Giggles, a fully working light house miniature, a narwhal based- fishing for squid game and a bedtime story about a minke whale named gwendoline who wanted to find the shiny things in the ocean. We too went to dream land soon after, having had far too much excitement and laughter for one storm bound day.



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Sunday 13th July 2014

Published: 14/07/2014

Day 5
Just an uninteresting, boring day… Lat: 57°29’2N
Long: 6°26’6W
Anchorage: Loch Greshornish Distance:  

After the very wet day yesterday, todays sunshine and calm (ish) wind was bliss. The wildlife, we figured, were having a lie in, seeing as the first sighting early on was 2 porpoises, and the next sighting was hours after this, again 2 porpoise individuals. Among multiple porpoises were some common dolphins, with an adorably cute calf (oh so small!) and a Nemo of the common dolphin world (a floppy dorsal finned individual). These commons were interested in Silurian, bow riding and being very photogenic.

The next sighting was also intriguing, a well-known “seal shark” in English this is a seal, mistaken for a basking sharks dorsal fin, this made us all a giggle.

"Sighting" was shouted, “it’s 1000 metres away, it isn’t a dolphin but it is larger than a minke whale”, at the same time 3 porpoises travelled past about 100 metres away. These porpoises were mistaken for the animal 1000 metres away, and as Kerry frantically looked along the coast line for this mysterious animal, she finally squeals “it’s a flippin’ killer whale!” We followed John Coe and co. (tee hee) for over an hour, thinking we weren’t going to get very close to them at all, it turned out we had them surfacing around 50 metres away from us. Nappies were nearly being needed, on mass! Once we had photo ID of all 4 (possibly 5... photo id will confirm this tomorrow ) we left them to it, and went on our way, just finding creel buoys and a couple of seals. Tomorrow we have the task of identifying the other male and two female Orca individuals.



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Thursday 10th July 2014

Published: 14/07/2014

Day 2
Not another minke! And there are those dolphins again.
Lat: 56 55.481
Long: 7 31.785
Anchorage: Vatersay
Distance Travelled: 67.0 miles
What a day, surveying for 12 hours 32 minutes and 47 seconds!
Sightings were few from Tiree for a few hours, we were asking ourselves “where are they all?” Then we had the first Silurian basking shark sighting of the season, followed by many others. At 12:27 we had the first porpoise acoustic detection of the day and after this it went mental. We had found the wildlife!
We had 6 basking shark sightings (1 possible re-sighting), common dolphins bow riding and leaping completely out of the water, in total 2 sightings with 90 individuals, at a similar time to the commons we had white beaked dolphins also being playful – 1 sighting with 15 individuals.
With only two sightings tabs on the computer it was an information overload, especially as common and grey seals kept popping up and bottling (just sticking their head out the water and drifting with the waves) in total we had 2 common seals, 16 grey seal sightings with 17 individuals. As well as all this we had 5 porpoise sightings with 7 individuals, the hydrophone also recorded two more detections in the afternoon.
Minke whales were also abundant with 8 sightings and a staggering total of 12 individuals, most of which came to investigate the yacht, swimming under the yacht showing its white mittens and occasionally white underside. Sadly one minke had thin blue rope/plastic strapping attached around its head, and another had some sort of fishing gear or maybe a parasite off its left side – we are still puzzling over this! The minke whales were all seen travelling along a tide line, miles from the nearest land, where the bringing together of different water bodies also unfortunately brought together many items of marine litter.
As we travelled further towards Vatersay, the sea state increased and so we had 5 sightings of unidentified dolphin combining to 9 individuals, as well as 2 unidentified seal sightings. As well as all these marine mammals there was a lot of bird activity, gannets, kittiwakes, fulmars, gulls, shearwaters, skuas (being bullies like usual), and beautiful landscapes. So really it couldn’t have got any better.
Basking shark

minke whale

White-beaked dolphin

White-beaked dolphins

Minke whale with blue plastic strapping around it's head


Common dolphin


Skua harassing a gull


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Saturday 12th July 2014

Published: 13/07/2014

Day 4
Title: Damp weather and shiP scones
Lat: 57°35’6N
Long: 7°08’9W
Anchorage: Loch Maddy
Distance travelled: 44.5 miles  

The day started out nice, though a bit colder than the days before. Leaving our anchorage we saw a lot of creel buoys along the shore line and only 21 min after starting the observations we had a grey seal sighting. Little over an hour later we had another grey seal sighting. After that we heard a faint dolphin whistle on the hydrophone, so faint that we started to doubt whether we had heard it correctly. Luckily, less than a minute later a shout came from the mast, dolphin sighting! And a group of 8 common dolphins were spotted in the distance. We were quite excited hoping the day would turn out similar to the day before. Unfortunately it started raining in the morning and it did not stop all day. Sightings were sparse then, though we did have a sighting of an unknown dolphin and another sighting that possibly was a basking shark.

At the end of the 7 hour and 40 min surveying day we anchored at Loch Maddy and nine damp people gathered around the table, curious about the treat of the day: Scones! The first batch turned out flat, so when Kerry saw them she called them ship-scones. We heard something entirely different and all started laughing, from then on unable to say the word shiP-scones without laughing.



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Friday 11th July 2014

Published: 13/07/2014

Day 3
Swimming birds and flying whales Lat: 57°03’4N
Long: 6°29’4W
Anchorage: Canna
Distance Travelled: 45.2  

After the incredible day we had yesterday, spirits were high this morning and everyone was excited and ready for another busy day at sea, despite the slightly bad turn in the weather. Within a couple of  minutes  we were off to a promising start with seal sighting, however  it was quickly corrected to a creel buoy, not so exciting!

The morning went on to be very exciting, with 2 porpoises and 2 seals’ (1 common, 1 grey) to start us off, followed by a possible Risso’s dolphin sighting which unfortunately was too fast and fleeting to be 100% sure, though with its slow surfacing and tall grey dorsal fin, Kerry was almost sure of it.
We then had a Minke whale and a basking shark all within 5 minutes. Next up… ORCA!!! Or so we think, there was a very excitable shout from the mast of ‘I think it’s an Orca’ which had everyone out on deck, eyes in every direction, eager for a look at the elusive whale! However, 20 minutes later still no more sign of the Orca, however the description of the tall, black fin that popped up and down quickly was very unlikely to have been anything else! Having calmed down from the Orca excitement another Harbour porpoise was spotted, followed by another spectacular sight of a Minke whale fully breaching twice in quick succession! After this things started to slow down a bit.

As we made our way through the choppy waters towards our mooring at Canna, the number of sightings dwindled with only 3 seals and a Harbour porpoise spotted over the last few hours. Once at the mooring we had a little friend come and visit us in the form of a Grey seal, bottling less than 2 meters from the boat and posing nicely for some photos. After a much shorter day of only 7 ½ hours of sailing, we all headed ashore to explore the local area.



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Wednesday 9th July 2014

Published: 12/07/2014

HWDT 5
Day 1 
Information overload, snack stops and endless shouts of creel buoys.
Lat: 56°30’08N Long: 6°48’00W Anchorage: Gott Bay, Tiree
Distance Travelled: 32.15 miles

Day one began with us new recruits being bombarded with information on numerous cetaceans, seals and the various procedures involved with surveying the local area. After a brief (but mandatory) snack stop, and a replacement hydrophone for our slightly dodgy one, we were ready to start our first afternoon on the water.

We set of from our mooring in Tobermory eagerly; and with several sightings of creel buoys within the first few minutes the afternoon got off to a promising start, but as the day drifted pleasantly on with some lovely weather, signs of life were scarce to say the least. The only visual encounters were a (probable) porpoise, spotted by skipper Stuart and first mate Tom; and some distant unidentifiable dolphins seen by 8 time volunteer Leanne.

Things looked a bit more abundant on the now working hydrophone, with 5 porpoises detected throughout the afternoon, one being a perfect example of a porpoise train; a series of detections that show a single porpoise moving past the boat (not multiple porpoises in one long line). Despite not seeing any record breaking number of animals, a good time was had by all as some wonderfully sunny and dry weather helped us settle into life on our new home.



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Wednesday 9th July 2014

Published: 12/07/2014

HWDT 5
Day 1 
Information overload, snack stops and endless shouts of creel buoys.
Lat: 56°30’08N Long: 6°48’00W Anchorage: Gott Bay, Tiree
Distance Travelled: 32.15 miles

Day one began with us new recruits being bombarded with information on numerous cetaceans, seals and the various procedures involved with surveying the local area. After a brief (but mandatory) snack stop, and a replacement hydrophone for our slightly dodgy one, we were ready to start our first afternoon on the water.

We set of from our mooring in Tobermory eagerly; and with several sightings of creel buoys within the first few minutes the afternoon got off to a promising start, but as the day drifted pleasantly on with some lovely weather, signs of life were scarce to say the least. The only visual encounters were a (probable) porpoise, spotted by skipper Stuart and first mate Tom; and some distant unidentifiable dolphins seen by 8 time volunteer Leanne.

Things looked a bit more abundant on the now working hydrophone, with 5 porpoises detected throughout the afternoon, one being a perfect example of a porpoise train; a series of detections that show a single porpoise moving past the boat (not multiple porpoises in one long line). Despite not seeing any record breaking number of animals, a good time was had by all as some wonderfully sunny and dry weather helped us settle into life on our new home.



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Wednesday 9th July 2014

Published: 10/07/2014

HWDT 5
Day 1 
Information overload, snack stops and endless shouts of creel buoys.
Lat: 56°30’08N Long: 6°48’00W Anchorage: Gott Bay, Tiree
Distance Travelled: 32.15 miles

Day one began with us new recruits being bombarded with information on numerous cetaceans, seals and the various procedures involved with surveying the local area. After a brief (but mandatory) snack stop, and a replacement hydrophone for our slightly dodgy one, we were ready to start our first afternoon on the water.

We set of from our mooring in Tobermory eagerly; and with several sightings of creel buoys within the first few minutes the afternoon got off to a promising start, but as the day drifted pleasantly on with some lovely weather, signs of life were scarce to say the least. The only visual encounters were a (probable) porpoise, spotted by skipper Stuart and first mate Tom; and some distant unidentifiable dolphins seen by 8 time volunteer Leanne.

Things looked a bit more abundant on the now working hydrophone, with 5 porpoises detected throughout the afternoon, one being a perfect example of a porpoise train; a series of detections that show a single porpoise moving past the boat (not multiple porpoises in one long line). Despite not seeing any record breaking number of animals, a good time was had by all as some wonderfully sunny and dry weather helped us settle into life on our new home.



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Thursday 3rd July 2014

Published: 06/07/2014

Day 9
The Splash Zone
Latitude: 57 degrees 9.2 minutes North
Longitude:   5 degrees 47.6 minutes West
Anchorage:  Isle Ornsay
Distance Travelled: 42.1 miles
Time on Effort: 7 hours 5 minutes and 2 seconds

We woke up feeling well rested and raring to go! With the sea shanti’s still in our heads we set off to do a costal survey as there were still fairly high winds and going offshore wouldn’t have been a good idea.

The first sighting of the day was of two juvenile common seals playing in the water. This was followed by another common seal, an unidentified seal and one harbour porpoise. There was one other sighting but as the waves were getting bigger it was hard to tell what it was so it went down as a unknown. We had 4 harbour porpoise detections on the hydrophone and we also broke our record for the number of creel buoys with a staggering 193.

The most exciting part of the day came with the mast shift which should really have been called the ‘Splash Zone’. The wind was high for most of the day making the sea rather rough even in the shelter of the coast.

We reached our destination of Isle Ornsay at the earlier time of 3.30pm and waiting for the soggy volunteers and crew where homemade scones made by tom which were devoured almost as soon as they touched the plates.

Ther plan for this evening is to chill out, read, eat and most probably sing sea shanties after tea which tonight is a mexican being made for us by Kerry and Tom. Today was another great day and different day, and certainly no one wants the trip to end!



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Wednesday 2nd July

Published: 06/07/2014

Day 8
Storm Bound but not to be out done Latitude: 57 degrees 20.5 mins North Longitude:   5 degrees 39 minutes West
Anchorage:  Plockton Distance Travelled: 0 miles
Time on Effort: 0

We woke up to whistling wind through the sails this morning with the glorious weather of yesterday a thing of the past. We had listened to the weather forecast last night on the radio and had pretty much decided that conditions would be to rough and therefore no good for sightings and trying to do any surveying. However the day was not lost as it meant a lie in and our 2nd shower of the whole trip!

We started the day with a presentation from Kerry on the things they had discovered about the Hebridean cetaceans from their long term surveying and research. We then set about designing our own mini presentations on a whale or dolphin chosen at random from a pack of cards. We also had a 12 hour art challenge in which we each chose a random word related to the trip and come up with either a drawing a poem or a sea shanty.

The day was also spent snoozing reading and playing cards. The weather finally brightened up so a few of us headed ashore to have a look around Plockton. When we arrived back we made tea and shared a bottle of wine. After tea we presented our art work which was made up of a few great drawings and poems, a description of how the weather had been working during that day, a model skewer made from tin cans a milk bottle and duct tape.

Once the days creations had been enjoyed we practiced some sea shanti’s that Andrea had written and then headed to the pub for what we thought was going to be a quite drink. Once we had all settled down with our drinks someone asked ‘where’s Andrea gone?’ to which everyone replied "she has gone to ask the folk band whether we can perform our sea shanti’s." Faces dropped all round the table apart from one… Sarah, who along with Andrea took one for the team and sang our made up sea shanti’s to the whole of Plockton's local pub! As much as we were mortified, the whole pub was soon singing along and really got behind the porpoise and whale lyrics. It topped off our creative storm bound day nicely! ‘Whale blow and up she rises… Whale blow and up she rises… whale blow and up she rises early in the morning’



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Tuesday 1st July 2014

Published: 02/07/2014

Day 7
Do you Minke saw us?
Latitude: 57 degrees 20.5 mins North
Longitude: 5 degrees 39 minutes West Anchorage: Plockton
Distance Travelled: 74.6 miles
Time on Effort: 12:44:09

The day started with a good mood among all aboard Silurian. Conditions were perfect, flat calm and sunny. We started off with our usual smattering of Harbour Porpoise and seals, although we did notice that in these conditions we could spot everything with ease.
Since the conditions were so calm, I decided to climb the crow’s nest and see what there was to see. Once I got over the initial shock of being up so high and feeling every tiny movement of the boat, the view was fantastic, particularly watching the sun as it hit the water. There was an impressive array of jellyfish, mostly consisting of Moon jellyfish and Lion’s Manes, being pushed away by the bow of our yatch in the crystal blue waters of the North Minch. I came down from the mast, and appeared to have started a trend.
Soon Kerry and Helen were climbing the mast to get a good view.

We carried on seeing our porpoises and seals, but when it came to Bill’s watch we were in for a real treat. He noticed a patch of disturbed water, and we soon saw a pod of Common Dolphins heading our way! They turned to come near us and we saw flashes of yellow and black coming towards us. Before we knew it, two individuals were riding our bow wave, cruising along with us. They had very distinctive cross-hatched scarring along their backs and we got a very good look at them, but they soon went off to chase a ferry and catch some food. We were all ecstatic at this point, but little did we know that the best was yet to come.

Bill’s watch came around again, and I jokingly said “what have you got for us now?” We were heading for the shallowest part of the sand bank and in the distance he spotted some Shearwaters, birds which are usually associated with Minke Whales. We waited, and saw a Minke Whale in the distance. At last! Just what we had all wanted to see! The whale appeared to surface again, but this time it was only around 400m from our boat. It couldn’t possibly be the same individual, and then there was another much smaller than the first. It was what looked like a mother and a calf. Surely it couldn’t get better than this. We then went with whales, and whilst we were all looking out, we heard Helen squeal and saw a huge white shape right next to Silurian. It was so pale that we almost shouted out “beluga”. The white shape vanished and there on the starboard side, within touching distance, was a huge and beautiful Minke Whale. We saw the white bands on the pectoral fins, and it rolled on its side to get a better look at us. It continued diving under the boat and coming up alongside. I was struck by the power coming from the tail, and the grace of its movement. Some of us had tears in our eyes as it came up to have a last look at us, and then went away to feed. We felt humbled and amazed that this wonderful wild creature had chosen to spend this moment with us. It’s certainly a moment we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Now all we needed was another pod of dolphins to round of our day, and soon we got our wish. Whilst sailing through the Inner Sound we saw not one, but two pods of Common Dolphins coming towards us. While one pod swam past us, the other looked ready to play. We saw splashing and leaping, and then the headed straight for us, including a tiny calf! They started bow riding next to us, jostling for the best position and Stuart got some excellent footage on the GoPro. One dolphin managed to bump its tail on the anchor chain, and they disappeared.

We headed for our anchorage in Plockton feeling exhausted, but had a few treats of Common Seals and Harbour Porpoises. Our survey finally finished at 21:30. Over 12 hours and we’d had 39 Harbour Porpoise sightings, 3 Common Dolphin sightings (comprising of around 78 individuals), 20 seal sightings and 2 Minke Whale sightings. If we’d even seen half of those over the whole of the survey we’d all have been very happy. We sat down to a delicious meal of haggis, neeps and tatties prepared by Tom, and the sun set on what was, for many of us, the best day of our lives.



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Monday 30th June 2014

Published: 02/07/2014

Day 6  
Title: Seal of approval
Latitude: 58 degrees 8.9 minutes North
Longitude:   5 degrees 14.7 minutes West
Anchorage:  Loch Inver
Distance Travelled:  57.5 nautical miles.
Time on Effort:  9 hours 00min 41 secs.  

Today started off in the usual creel buoy way however this time there was much more drizzle and fog although the sun soon burnt it off.

We headed off towards the notorious Cape Wrath and were delighted with the numerous sightings of seals, puffins and guillemots we saw. Cape Wrath itself was an impressive sight with its dramatic cliffs and lonesome looking lighthouse. On our return back south down the coast the seal sightings continued along with 5 sightings of harbour porpoise. In total we saw 9 Grey seals 3 common seals and 1 unidentified seal.

The hydrophone detected 5 harbour porpoise clicks 3 of which matched our sightings. It also detected some faint dolphin whistles but unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any. Conditions today were glorious and everyone was peeling off the layers as the day went on.

When we finally anchored in Loch Inver after what felt like the quickest 9 hours of our lives Andrea and Ian set about making an amazing dinner of chicken wrapped in bacon with roast potatoes and a mushroom and leak sauce and broccoli! Whilst all the hard work was going on down stairs Sarah went crab fishing and caught 2 crabs and the rest of us watched a seal chase a fishing boat almost like it was trying to jump like a dolphin.

With everyone looking slightly more pink in the face we are just about to settle down to a game of cards and possibly a wee dram. ‘SLANJE’!



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Sunday 29th June 2014

Published: 29/06/2014

Day 5
A grand day out.  
Latitude: 58 degrees 27 minutes North
Longitude: 5 degrees 03 minutes West Anchorage:  Loch Clash , near Kinlochbirvie.
Distance Travelled:  53 nautical miles.
Time on Effort:  8 hours 39min 17 secs.

A fairly early start on effort meant we left Loch Erisort ahead of schedule and headed north east back to the mainland at Loch Clash, a bright sunny day with decreasing winds made for better sighting conditions. The first sighting was a porpoise, followed by an unidentified dolphin then confirmed 15 common dolphins, then 5 white beaked dolphins followed by a distant animal that was seen breaching multiple times. A further 8 porpoise detections were gathered by the acoustics en route.

The dolphins have not decided to bow ride with us as yet, so maybe to-morrow they will decide to join us. We did not encounter any seals to day, which in its-self is unusual.

 An excellent chilli con carne was conjured up by Sarah, with Andrea as sous chef.  Now we’re off the pub in Kinlochbirvie, and tomorrow we are planning to round Cape Wrath:  we are taking advantage of the good weather to reach this less surveyed area.



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Saturday 28th June 2014

Published: 29/06/2014

Day 4  
‘Grey squirrel’ and ‘crustaceans’  Latitude:  58 degrees 6 minutes Longitude:   6 degrees 30.4 minutes Anchorage:  Loch Erisort, Lewis Distance Travelled:  55.7 miles
Time on Effort:  8 hours 37 mins 07 secs

A familiar start to the day with numerous creel buoys being announced on our departure from Loch a Chadh-fi. We headed south west across the Minch under sail for 15 miles towards the island of Lewis. Due to conditions not being ideal for sightings or for our initial aim of getting to Cape-wrath we changed our plans with the hope of getting there later in the week.

The first sighting of the day came as a grey seal, the dolphins where there but they were teasing us by whistling down the hydrophone. Eventually Bill shouted ‘oo oo oo sighting’ and we all looked to see 2 juvenile common dolphins swimming by. The dolphins were closely followed by a succession of 3 harbour porpoise and an unidentified dolphin which later matched with an acoustic log of another harbour porpoise.

After a productive day of deciding what bird we would like to be if we had the choice and Sarah consuming her own body weight in ginger to help cope with sea sickness Helen and Andrea went for a walk on the island of Lewis and Kerry went for a run past them. Back on board Ian and Bill were cooking up a fest of bangers and mash (well once the oven was turned on). Another great day on board the Silurian.



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Friday 27th June 2014

Published: 28/06/2014

Day 3 
Birds Galore
Latitude:  58 degrees 24.8 minutes Longitude:   5 degrees 6 minutes Anchorage:  Loch a Chadh-fi (3nm south of Kinlochbervie)
Distance Travelled:  47 miles
Time on Effort:  7 hours 56 mins 25 secs

Our third day started breezy and not so bright –somewhat overcast compared to yesterday’s blazing sun.  But we are old hands at this now and full of hopes for exciting sightings.   As we travelled out of the bay past Isle Martin and the Summer Isles, visually spectacular: Stuart climbed up into the crows nest to take photographs.  Layers of misty mountains, small rocky and green islands and loch and bays – coastal scenery to die for.   

We travelled northwards up the Minch enjoying the fabulous views.  A sighting:  a common seal, high in the water, bottling.  We had started – so where were all the cetaceans?

We were seeing a lot of guillemots.  A beautiful Great Skua, dogged by a gull, flew up close  behind the boat, circled us, and flew off.  Then more guillemots: we were approaching the magnificent cliffs of Handa Island, splodged with evidence of centuries of nesting sites.  ‘There are too many.  I can’t count them all’.  Sarah overcome with multiple bird sightings:  razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins, terns, gulls everywhere, flying in gangs, in Vs, floating in groups, swimming, dashing across the water, away and back to the cliffs.  Bird heaven.  

Continuing northwards a short while, then 2 miles inland, passing mussel and salmon farms, 3 herons and 5 greylag geese, we found anchorage in Loch a Chadh-fi.  

A landing party followed a cliff path up a hill for wonderful views, then back for a shower.  Sarah had a dip and Kerry a swim.  A delicious meal of pesto pasta prepared by Helen - and the pan was emptied.  The acoustic recording evidenced 6 harbour porpoises and 1 dolphin.

  We are happy and tired – an another amazing day.



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Thursday 26th June 2014

Published: 26/06/2014

Day 2
Sun, Sea & Swell
Lat: 57 deg 56.2 min Long: 5 deg 11.7 min
Anchorage: Loch Kanaird 5 miles from Ullapool
Distance Travelled:  51 Miles
Time on Effort: 8 Hours 50 Min 47 Secs

Last night, after a pint at the pub and an introduction to the local midges, Conor arrived with the new hydrophone. Back on the boat he gave us the low down of the Humpback that was stranded on Mull while the sun set on another glorious West Coast summer evening. So with Hydrophone fixed and Kerry happy we left Shieldaig with the sun on our faces and our hearts filled with the joys of what was to come, which started with the familiar cry of “creel bouy”.

After exiting Loch Torridon we sighted our first harbour porpoise, 09:08 GMT to be precise, followed quickly by one more, but that was it for a while. We Sailed out into the Minch with a following wind. The plan was to sail out 9 miles into the Minch before turning and heading NE towards the Summer Isles. Unfortunately the swell picked up, sightings fell off and seasickness arrived. We had two more sightings for the day one fleeting glimpse of an unidentified dolphin in the swell and another harbour porpoise as we approached the Summer Isles.

Anchored for the night Kerry quickly went through the acoustic porpoise detections and during the journey 11 confirmed detections were recorded including 1 that correlated with the sighting of the unidentified dolphin.

A delicious meal comprising sweet and sour beef with pineapple,and rice conjoured up by Sarah was enjoyed by all.It was the first full day for us so for many of us it’s an early night to be ready for another exciting day at sea.



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Wednesday 25th June 2014

Published: 25/06/2014

HWDT 4
Day 1
A Baptism of Fire
Lat: Long:
Anchorage: Shieldaig
Distance Travelled: 33.8 miles

Our first day began with frenzy: within our first half hour shift, we’d seen grey seals and lots of creel buoys, which would become a familiar sight throughout the day. The sea was flat calm, with conditions being perfect for surveying, apart from the fact that our hydrophone was not fully functioning.

We exited Kyle of Lochalsh and made our way up to the east coast of Raasay. Soon after our first change over, Bill spotted some Harbour Porpoise. A few interesting calls and text reached our attention: one telling us we needed to hug the shore line in order to avoid submarines on exercise; one telling us that Conor (HWDT's sightings officer) was bringing us a new hydrophone and one informing us of a humpback whale stranding on the Isle of Mull, a rare occurrence. We learned from Tom that the reason we were calling out so many creel buoys, was that fishing is prohibited around the submarine exercise area, so the fishermen place their creels close to the edge where the fishing is very good.

Later on in the day the wind picked up, and even Kerry admitted it was no longer the weather for shorts, but the marine life seemed to disappear. No porpoises and not even any seals, we began to get a little tired especially after what seemed like the millionth call of “creel buoy”.  All we had to keep us going was some lemon cake, which, while delicious, is not the same as seeing some cetaceans.

Silurian altered course and turned into Loch Torrindon and while we were admiring the spectacular scenery, suddenly Helen called out “sighting!” We all got very excited as we saw two groups of Harbour Porpoise swimming energetically against the backdrop of the beautiful Scottish landscape. Despite our malfunctioning hydrophone, we had managed to detect at least three porpoise events, two of which matched up with our visual sightings.
Overall, we’d been surveying for 6 hours and 18 minutes and we managed to see 8 Harbour Porpoise, 18 seals and 87creel buoys! Finally we could sit back and relax as we dropped anchor at Shieldaig, with the promise of a trip to the pub and a tasty curry.



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Saturday 21st June 2014

Published: 22/06/2014

Why do you have a jellyfish on your head?
Anchorage: Gairloch
Lat: 57°42.006 N
Long: 005°42.919 W
Distance travelled: 55.3 miles

I feel that today’s blog does have to start with an explanation of the title! Elliot, our slightly insane adventurer decided to take a dip once we had moored up. Then to the amazement of those spectating he popped up with a frying pan sized jellyfish on his head.  If anyone can enlighten us as to why this occurred…then do get in touch.

Now back to today’s sailing. The day began with dolphins of some kind, or so we thought, however, these were in fact four very active harbour porpoise that shot through the water. As the day progressed, the weather stayed calm with conditions that were great for sighting any possible cetaceans. With a Minke Whale sighting and also many grey seal and harbour porpoise sightings, this made for a great day of surveying. We had a grand total of seven harbour porpoise sightings, two common seals, four grey seals and one stealthy minke whale.

The day ended with a wonderful beef curry cooked by Mick, a well-deserved pint or two at the pub and an interesting trip back to the boat in the pitch black.



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