A sight not normally seen in the waters off the north-east coast of Scotland was witnessed by a group of trainee European Seabird at Sea (ESAS) observers recently from the deck of Scotia W. During a three-day training course which was being conducted aboard the vessel, the group spotted a humpback whale in the waters near Cruden Bay.
The group were onboard the Scotia Charters vessel to learn about observing and monitoring marine birds and cetaceans. The need for accredited ESAS observers is growing because of an increase in the number of offshore wind farms. Monitoring at these sites is required to establish whether the turbines are affecting the bird and mammal populations.
The training took the form of three days of theoretical and practical instruction which was led by a Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) approved ESAS trainer. It was on the final day that the humpback whale was spotted.
Among some of the largest creatures in the world, humpback whales grow up to 15m (49.5ft) and have a distinctive dorsal fin and body shape. It feeds in summer, usually in cold temperate and polar waters, and then generally migrates to tropical and subtropical waters in winter to breed – travelling around 16,000 miles a year.
Scotia Charters’ Alex Wood said: “The group were having lunch in the dining room when I spotted a black hump and a water spout not far from where we were sailing. I called the group and they were quickly on the main deck with binoculars at the ready. They didn’t have to wait long for the whale to resurface. There was even great excitement when it was identified as a humpback whale – something which is rare in these waters.
“Seeing one of these giants close-up was awe inspiring and just goes to show how diverse the wildlife around Scotland’s shores is.”
Much of the training was conducted on the boat’s upper deck which was recently installed and has been designed specifically for use by wildlife observers. It features three seating areas – two fore and one aft – which each accommodates two people comfortably – three if required – and provides a 330º visual arc and a seated viewing height of 7.2m
Access to the new deck is via an aft stairway fitted with double handrails, and regulation height handrails are fitted round the whole deck area. Additional safety precautions have been taken with the installation of an extra lifebelt and throwing line.
Alex added: “The new upper deck was put to good use during the training and received nothing but praise from the instructor and trainees. With a seated viewing height of 7.2 metres it was regarded as being an ideal platform for bird surveys and very much supports our decision to invest in this modification.”
Converted from a former North Sea fishing trawler, Scotia W is a traditional wood hull vessel that offers luxurious accommodation for up to ten guests. Accommodation includes four twin and two single en-suite guest cabins, a large lounge and dining area, and a spacious wheelhouse. All meals are provided onboard the boat and are prepared using, where possible, the freshest local produce. Sailing itineraries can be tailored to suit specific guest requirements.
For more information, email email@example.com or telephone +44 (0) 7976 897332.