Our journey aboard the Silurian [the research vessel of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust] began at 6pm on Monday 27th May. We were introduced to the crew on the boat over a cup of tea and biscuits. The crew briefed us on what we could expect on the trip and what the schedule would be like. That evening we had a lovely vegetarian bolognese for dinner made by first mate Charlie, and then Lauren gave us a presentation on the marine mammal surveys, which species we would expect to see on the trip and the scientific protocol. The first night sleeping on the boat was an interesting experience but we all slept very well dreaming of the marine mammal sightings to come.
(Photo credits: Erin Vince)
The next morning began at 7:30 am with bowls of delicious porridge made by Rod and Isha’s topping of chilli salt and black pepper caused much debate as to the best porridge topping. Still anchored in Tobermory harbour, Quentin gave us a safety demonstration and we then began the survey.
The anchor was dropped in the harbour of the Isle of Rum that evening without any marine mammals sightings. However, we saw many seabirds such as gannets, guillemots and razorbills which made up for the disappointment. After a short excursion on the Isle of Rum we returned to the boat and Hannah and Maeva cooked a Thai curry. Lauren then gave us a presentation on seabirds and how they can act as indicators of the presence of marine mammals in an area. It was an enjoyable day settling in to life on board the Silurian.
Kinloch Castle at the Isle of Rum (Photo credit: Isha)
After a calm night’s sleep anchored at the Isle of Rum, we all woke at 7:30 am for another lovely breakfast made by Lauren and further debate about porridge toppings. Quentin and Rod even tried Isha’s controversial salt and pepper choice. They loved it!
Following the briefing about our survey route for the day, we set off around 9 am to begin the day’s work and we were all spoilt with marine mammal sightings. With the best weather conditions of the trip, we saw many grey seals, harbour porpoises, common dolphins and five minke whales!
Minke Whale (Photo credits: Erin Vince)
A highlight of this day had to be the second minke whale sighting.The individual swam around and underneath the boat for around 10 minutes; showing off its white “minke mittens”. Only 30 minutes after this encounter, approximately 20 common dolphins joined our survey and began to bow ride. It was an incredible experience and a brilliant second survey day.
Common Dolphins (Photo Credits: Isha)
The survey ended around 4:30 pm and we anchored at the Isle of Muck for our last evening on the Silurian. After a visit to the Isle of Muck – all of us starting to feel our sea legs on land! – we returned to the Silurian to enjoy dinner cooked by Isha and Erin. To finish our day, everyone gathered around to enjoy one of Rod’s legendary bedtime stories (about the history of Muck) before heading to bed for our last sleep on the Silurian.
Day 3 aboard the Silurian started off with a beautiful morning and a lovely, albeit slightly sentimental breakfast as goodbyes and choppy waves awaited us. We began surveying making full use of our sea legs and clinging to support as the Silurian made way under sail. A few more wonderful sightings consisted of a Minke whale, Harbor porpoises, more Grey seals. Of particular excitement were Puffins found swimming in the water. We then made our way back to Tobermory where Charlie’s delicious risotto and land awaited us.
Tobermory Harbour (Photo credits: Isha)