Day 4 |
Aug 31, 2009

At Sea

By Chris Srigley, General Naturalist

Weather: Overcase and windy

Last night we literally sailed off into the sunset, Greenland behind us the Davis Strait ahead, and beyond, our destination two days from now – Canada.

Greeted by a rolling sea, overcast skies and winds running in the range of 23 knots I awoke and made my way directly to the Bridge. Being a day at sea it was time to keep watch for whales, seals and birds. Taking a quick break for my morning coffee I wandered the halls and found the Prince Albert II to be very quiet; it was evident that the slight swell was keeping some of us in bed. We had left the weather bubble of Greenland we had been in for the last few days.

Back on the Bridge it wasn’t long before I was spotting new species for our trip list. Brunnich’s Guillemot, Black-legged Kittiwake, Ringed and Harp Seals. It was all coming together. Now all we needed was some cetaceans to round off the morning! Unfortunately the only cetaceans I would see for the morning were the ones in our Marine mammal specialist Rob Suisted’s lecture “Whales and Dolphins of the North Atlantic”.

Slowly life seemed to creep into the Prince Albert II as guests appeared from their suites just before the lunch hour. Several joined me on the Bridge before heading to The Restaurant. Just as I was about to move in the same direction, an odd splash off of the starboard side caught my eye. There seemed to be a good amount of Northern Fulmars flying around as well. Concentrating on the area, eventually fin after fin began to appear, a fairly large pod of Long-finned Pilot Whales!

Quickly I informed the officer on watch and called our Expedition Leader Robin West. Not long after, the decision was made to turn the ship and offer a look at pilot whales. Announcements were made and guests filtered out onto the upper decks for a look. Reaching approximately 21 feet and 5,000 lbs, pilot whales are named for the thought that one of the group will pilot and the rest will follow no matter where the leader goes, even if this means certain danger. Mass standings are not uncommon for these whales. Without the reputation of the Humpback whales for displays and interaction, our stop was for the sighting, one that most of us will never have the opportunity for again in our lives if we didn’t do it now.

Regaining course, we pushed on, our fingers crossed for sightings of larger cetaceans.
I later joined the English-speaking guests in the Observation Lounge for our Recap & Briefing. Claudia, known as ‘Clouds’ to us, talked about clouds. Susan talked of Narwhal and the myths of the unicorn that it spawned in earlier times while Rob gave a quick talk on the whales we had seen earlier. As we lifted the blinds, another group of Pilot whales cruised past on our port side, escorting us to The Restaurant for our Captains’ welcome dinner.

With the tight schedule and icebergs in our first few days, we had needed to make some schedule changes. Tonight was our first possibility to fit this event, which is normally held on the second evening of the cruise. Enjoying the company of my table, we talked and ate the evening away as the sun set on another day onboard the Prince Albert II.

Calm seas, whales and sunshine tomorrow please…