A Whale of a Tale: Notes from the Ship

Posted on April 24, 2020 by

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to spend a day at sea on board a tall ship while crossing the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean?

In this update from the ship, our Deckhand, Nicholas, shares a close encounter with a pod of dolphins, a handful of orca and a chase that had everyone on the edge of their seat.

UTC/DATE/TIME: 09:00 12-04-2020
BOARD DATE/TIME: 08:00 12-04-2020
POSITION: 44º59’N   026º48’W
HEADING:  043º (North East)
SEA STATE: The rolling waves from the West have lessened a little
resulting in the ship rolling much less than yesterday morning.
AIR TEMP: 13º C, 57º F
SAILS CARRIED: We are still motoring along.
LOG KEEPER: Nicholas

“Yesterday was a beautiful day. It started out with a whale of a tale, as a pod of Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus), or cachalot, were spotted, the largest of the toothed whales. We altered course and observed them for an hour. The closest we came was when a mother and her calf swam right off the port bow. It was breathtaking.

As we saw them dive, we thought that would be the end of that for the day. Our engineer, Deyan, helped the cook make Schnitzel for lunch, and many agreed it was restaurant quality. Toma made Bagels by hand which we are enjoying this morning.

Shortly after lunch another very large sperm whale was spotted off the port beam. While looking out to Starboard for more sperm whales, a massive fin was observed carving out of the water coming directly toward the ship, a massive white and black head looking right at the ship before diving below.

This happened five times until the massive Orca (Killer Whale) dove below the surface. We were right in between a pod of orca whales and the hunt.

The hunt begins.

As many of us climbed the mast to get a better sight of them, we slowed down our engine and altered course once more. From aloft we saw the massive fin of the male orca whale carve once more nearly two meters out of the water, distinctive scars upon both his fin and face. As we watched, a female and a calf surfaced right next to the male; they were now heading north.

It was at this time that we noticed a large pod of dolphins swimming from east to west. Perhaps thirty in total, they were launching themselves out of the water darting to the left and right, I have never seen dolphins jump like that. As we looked on, with the male orca and the two continuing north on their intercept course for the dolphins, at least two more orca whales surfaced close behind the pod of frantic dolphins.

The trap had been sprung.

The two pods of orca whales closed in and the dolphins made another large sprint to the west to try and get away. It was at this time that the third pod of orca whales surfaced traveling west to east just a hundred yards or so in front of the dolphins. The dolphins broke ranks and darted off in all directions, flying once more out of the water as if they wished for nothing more than to have wings instead of fins.

They can fly however; I grant them that, since after a couple of minutes or so the pod of dolphins had mostly formed up again having escaped the attack from three sides by the orca whales. For the next half hour we continued to watch; Tommaso, Toma and myself laughed aloft as Deyan narrated the events in a very good impression of Sir David Attenborough.

Gradually the whales swam away leaving us once more to the calm seas as far as the eyes can see. The rest of the day was taken up by good food, and high spirits as we marvelled at our spout of good luck to be able to have experienced what we did. This Morning we continue to press on toward Europe; a thick fog rolled in this morning limiting our visibility to a couple hundred yards for much of the time. We continue to wait for the winds return, and for our final turn to the east to begin our way up the English Channel. For now we will enjoy the journey and continue to look out for whales.”