Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Atlantic creatures

So, Sonja's post the other day gave a brief overview of the weather we encountered on the crossing. That will be fleshed out later, once we're back in Edinburgh and can add photos, etc. Now for the wildlife.
We had heard from quite a few folk that the deep Atlantic expanses are quite barren of animals. That was also our experience on the voyage from mainland Portugal out to the Azores but not this time. Pretty much every day for the first 8 days we saw dolphins or porpoises, who were happy to come and play with the boat for awhile. The most fantastic thing was when they came during the hours of darkness and both they and the boat left glowing green trails of phosphorescence behind them.
We also encountered whales several times. The first was a bit of a shocker for me sitting on night watch in the cockpit when a whale blew right next to my ear. Nearly jumped out of my skin! Fortunately it was downwind, so I was spared the odour of its breath.
The next day, we actually saw them. Sonja was looking out over the stern when she saw something that she took for a weather phenomenon at first. It turned out to be a pod of 3 pilot whales, spouting before sounding.
The day after that, I was up on deck (having a pee, as it happens) when I saw what looked like a large cloud of brownish smoke nearby. This of course was another spout, but emanating from a much larger specimen this time. Probably a humpback - a true leviathan of the deep. Even the small portion of it that was sticking out of the water was much larger than Fettler.
Aside from seabirds (Storm petrels and shearwaters, mostly, switching to Fulmar petrels, gannets and guillimots further north), the most frequently sighted animal was the Portuguese man o'war. A particularly nasty jellyfish if you get entangled with it, but very interesting to see with its own wee purple sail up.
Sea turtles we saw several times and I saw the dorsal and tail fins of a swordfish one morning.
That was all in the first 8 days. After crossing the 48th parallel, both the abundance of wildlife and the weather changed. No more dolphins were sighted until we were coming around the Irish coast the other night.

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