Whales and dolphins of the Moray Firth, Day 6, 5 June 2008
Back to pictures Day 7
5 June 2008 - Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world - Day 6

Well, after the festivities of Soo's birthday, how can we possibly top that? Of course then Andreas has to go and claim that today is his birthday. But anyways, since we didn't go out yesterday but tried to, all our stuff was already packed up and ready to go. We were up early and out by 9 and over to Whitehills and loading up the boat by 10. The sea seemed reasonably calm so there was no missing it today.

Out early on the boat.

A few minutes out of the harbor, we sight a minke. Yes, very cool. Although this one is a bit difficult to follow. Generally, they come up for three breaths and then dive and can be down for a few minutes before they come up again. If they are feeding, the third surfacing is a feeding strike and there is a bit more splashing. But this one isn't feeding and is rather unpredictable.

We attempt to get 25 minutes of timings on the dives but it proves to be quite difficult. We spot a surfacing, it is 400 meters one way, try to move the boat in the direction, see another surfacing a ways off, the third one is in another direction, and instead of the normal 2 minutes underwater, it can be 3-5 minutes and is 500 meters in a completely different direction. It must be just relaxing after eating or something. We all have to keep a watch in all directions and we probably miss a few surfacings. After 15-20 minutes, it is a bit too much and we kind of lose it. So, didn't get all the data we need but it was still nice to see. It is also even better standing at the top of the boat, in the frame, with a great view all around.

Bird raft.


Me at sea.

Amber, Kevin and Dale relaxing.

Our whale has taken us a bit east of Whitehills, so we head back west. On the way, we encounter a few porpoise, briefly. They are funny in the water, they look like spinning wheels, they come up, perfectly circular, a fin goes by and then they are gone until the next spin around. We head back to Whitehills for a toilet break and to eat our lunch. Back on the boat then we continue our survey, heading west. Kevin expects that we should see some dolphins in Spey Bay. But the seas have gotten rougher in the last hour. It isn't looking very hopeful.

Break in Whitehills.

We go by some seals and stop and chat with them for a while. We make seal noises and occasionally some of them answer back. We are really not seeing much at all. Looking at the choppy waves is quite mesmerising, you see lots of things that aren't there. And floating birds are cause for false alarms. I consider how you could create some sort of imaging system, looking for fins, having to eliminate all the water and waves as noise, the way the water moves and light reflects off, make sure you account for birds and their own unique shapes and movements, and decide it would take an awful amount of processing power. Which is probably why my brain was hurting, trying to watch all that water.

Past the seals.

Stop the boat, Soo is taking a picture.

We make it to Cullen and it has started to get too bad. We are not really seeing much and Spey Bay is probably not a good idea. It is disappointing that we probably won't see dolphins today but you can't control the weather. Well, Kevin keeps apologising for it and the sea conditions. Yeah, he should be sorry. I start composing a strongly worded letter to Earthwatch in my head. I make sure I add Kevin's uncanny ability to make the waves splash me, no matter what side of the boat I sit on. There were a few other things in the letter, but I can't remember what they were now.

Parked in Cullen.

In Cullen, we tie up outside the harbor and climb out of the boat. We all climb up on the sea wall and lie down and relax. Duncan takes up position on the outside of the harbor, scanning the sea for anything that might go by. A group of us heads off into town to pick up some ice cream. The seas might have been rough but the day was still hot, especially on land. It is amazing the difference just getting a little bit off the sea can make.

Napping on the seawall.

On the way back to the boat, Kevin has found some CRRU trustees and we have a bit of chat with them. There is a oyster catcher combing the rocks on the beach beyond the wall. A few decide to walk around on the beach and skip a few rocks in the ocean, but it doesn't like that at all. It circles in the air and calls loudly and keeps circling until everybody leaves the beach.

Oyster catcher beach.

Back on the boat, yeah, the sea has gotten much worse and there is no point in trying to go any further west. Just getting back from here is quite a bumpy ride. Bumpy but pretty fun. Amber and I are in the front, whooping at the really big waves, high fives all around when they are particularly wicked. You kind of get to know how they work. You can find a regular rhythm, up and over, and if you accelerate and then decelerate at the crest, you kind of ease down into the trough. So, you develop a rhythm of bouncing and up and down. But then some of the waves come at you from an angle. And there are a lot that don't subscribe to your rhythm and there is no way you can come of the crest of one and not slam down into a rather deep trough, or occasionally a wave breaks right over your head and you get pretty soaked.

Break in Portsoy.

It is all good fun but I realize later when I'm going to bed just why my arms hurt so much, from hanging on all day. At one point, it is suggested that Amber and I switch sides, to get a bit of a rest on the one side. But we quickly switch back because the other side is just better. We make it to Portsoy and decide to have a little rest there, in the nice peaceful harbor. We tie up and nobody particularly moves, just sort of lounges around on the boat for a bit. After a bit of peace and quiet, we head out to finish the rest of the trip. A fulmar circles around the boat, very close up and then heads off into the distance. And we see a few black guillemots as well as heading by the seal colony again.

We pack up the boat and get back in the cruiser to head back to Gardenstown. They drop off Duncan, Soo, and I at the top of the hill outside town and we hike past St John's Church, the ruins above town, and down into town again. It was the same hike we did a few days ago, but this time we just had to walk down. Walking down a big hill, one with a great view of the village and the sea is a nice way to end a tiring day.

Hiking down from St John's Church.

Keen on recycling.

Dinner is a bit of roast chicken and roasted vegetables. While we wait for it to be ready, we sit out on the patio of #2 and practice with Amber's hula hoop. Pine also takes great pleasure in torturing us all with the broom trick, twirling and twisting a broom around your body, stepping through with your feet, and basically just bending your body in ways that weren't intended. It is a rather stupid game, said as somebody who couldn't get past that second part of getting it around your shoulder once you had stepped over with the one leg. And the bay is lovely to look at, watching the sun go down and enjoying yet another pretty sunset.

Amber and hula hoop, Duncan and broom.

Simona was able to do the broom trick.

As was Ellie.

Dale demonstrating a Penguin orgasm.

Daniela, Amber, Andreas, and Richard enjoying.

Coming up to sunset again.

We head off to the pub again. Well, it was quiz night, how can you miss that? I mean I don't want to give the impression that there was any drinking going on with this serious scientific expedition. So, umm yeah. We split up into our boat groups again, continue the rivalry, our team 'Andreas is pants and the android antagonizers' and their team 'In search of minke'. We don't do all that bad though. Neither of us win, but funny enough, we tied for second place. We play a bit more darts and pool and then Kevin keeps threatening to wake us up at 5:30 the next morning in order to catch what seems to be the pattern of calm mornings and then rough afternoons. He keeps threatening enough so eventually we realize he is serious and we better get home and get some sleep. Well, it will be 5:30 if he thinks it is nice enough but won't wake us if it looks rubbish. So, off to bed then.

Hike to the pub.