Saturday, 15 August 2015

Elusive dolphins

Today I headed out on a small RIB from Seahouses in Northumberland in search of white-beaked dolphins. I briefly saw a small group of these robust, cold-water dolphins off Iceland back in 2001 and have wanted to see them in UK waters ever since.

Whilst waiting for a couple of people who were stuck in traffic, we made a quick sortie to visit the resident grey seals who were bobbing around like huge corks in the waves. These animals are always curious about boats and came to investigate us.

Having collected the latecomers, we headed back out to sea. White-beaked dolphins are a pelagic or open-ocean species, so you have to work hard to see them and we expected to travel some 20 miles offshore. However even 25 miles out the dolphins were proving elusive and we eventually had to turn back.

Thankfully, even though we couldn't find the dolphins, they found us. We were joined by a pod of maybe 10 or 12 (judging by the numbers we could see above the surface at any one time) and the animals spent time with us, just zipping underneath and around the boat, until we had to head back to shore before it got dark. It just goes to show that you don't need to leave the UK to have great cetacean encounters (but you do have to be persistent and willing to spend several hours crashing around at sea!).