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Third Standard Survey 2017 Completed
Third Standard Survey 2017 Completed

Third Standard Survey 2017 Completed

 The third standard Cetacean Research Survey of the 2017 season started on the 11th May and finished on the 17th May. With lots of reports of minke whales from our Community Sightings Network around Rum, Eigg and Muck as well as Coll, the aim was to survey this area to try to quantify these sightings.

Silurian set sail from Tobermory Bay on the 12th May and sailed round the north of Coll before anchoring for the night at Breachacha.

The next day was an early start to make the crossing from Coll to Barra. In these first few days of the survey there were some excellent sightings of basking sharks as well as minke whales. The minkes were so close to the boats at times that both the crew and the team of citizen scientists could even smell their stinky minke breath! After the long passage to Barra Silurian anchored in Vatersay Bay for the night.

On the 14th May the weather began to turn for the worse with larger waves making surveying more difficult. That evening Silurian sheltered in Gallananach Bay, Muck, and on the approach 98 seals were counted, hauled out on the rocky outcrops. Once anchored the opportunity was taken to go ashore to look at the stunning views and for a couple of the citizen scientist to befriend some of the local chickens. That night all crew and citizen scientists were back on board for dinner before enjoying the beautiful sunset going down over Rum.

Next morning it was clear the weather had not improved from the day before and once again the citizen scientists and crew had a tough day ahead to try to survey in some difficult and testing conditions. Everyone rose to the challenge, taking the adverse conditions in their stride. That night was spent in Loch Ceann, Traigh where everyone took part in a plankton party. The samples included some sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia bachei) who were in full party spirit with their iridescences causing a very entertaining light show rivalling any disco.

The final day saw Silurian heading back home to Tobermory. Once again rough seas were prevalent throughout the day and once coming around the headland at Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, Silurian’s biggest test of the trip was faced. With surveying impossible all on board sheltered in the saloon - although some on board were enjoying the rough weather and being jostled by the waves.

Even though the weather was too bad to survey at times, those onboard Silurian were still able to collect a vast amount of acoustic data as well as the sightings earlier in the monitoring expedition. In total 193 GB of acoustic data was recorded with lots of harbour porpoise detections. Over the course of the whole survey a total of 192.9 nautical miles was covered, with a total of 89 sightings, or 103 individual animals, recorded.

As well as our marine mega-fauna sightings, the team also counted an amazing 1,430 birds. Guillemots were the most frequently seen species, making up 36% of the birds they counted. They also saw some large flocks of shearwaters, encountered some great skuas that were very interested in the team and saw lots of fulmars and razorbills too. All in all a great trip with lots of interesting data!

A huge thanks to the citizen scientists on board, without your support our surveys would not be possible.