First Immingham-Gothenburg survey report 4th-7th February

6th Mar 2015

The survey team eagerly embarked on the first survey conducted on the DFDS freight ferry Ficaria Seaways. The team were escorted onto the passenger deck and mess area - our base for the next four days.  Embarkation time was 23.30hrs with a sailing time of 05.00hrs, crossing from Immingham Port to Gothenburg Port, Sweden.  The crew made us feel extremely welcome and plans were arranged to access the bridge the following day.

The following day as the ship meandered around the metal and concrete structures that jut out of the North Sea, the team manned the spacious bridge with a friendly crew and commenced surveying.  Cetacean sightings were somewhat elusive, but the sea birds were plentiful with fulmars swooping with the cresting waves, puffins energetically flapping their short wings displaying their winter plumage and rafts of Guillemots dotted over the surprisingly calm sea.  The skies darkened as we glided over Dogger Bank signalling the end to the first day of the first ORCA survey on a freight ship.

We awoke in a snowy Gothenburg harbour, which is protected by an island fortress-scarred with cannon fire from centuries of fierce Scandinavian conflicts.  We waited on-board watching many containers disappear to be replaced by many more.  The harbour offered an excellent opportunity to search for waterfowl.  Common Eiders, Mute Swans and Mallards huddled between the port’s many natural islands (ideal seal territory).  The team also spotted a few Goldeneye and Tufted Duck and a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers.

The crew invited us onto the bridge early and our survey started after a quick turn out of port.  The harbour was indeed ideal seal habitat.  The first pinniped poked its head above the water to stare at our temporary home before diving and swimming away to the irritation of the eiders, the second seal was milling around in the water at the base of a lighthouse.  This was confirmed as a Harbour Seal and was followed by a third less active individual.  We also finally had our first cetacean sightings, four Harbour Porpoises swimming along the Swedish coast.  A Peregrine Falcon was also spotted flying low over the water.

We arrived in Brevik, Norway during the night and had already been sailing for several hours when the sun rose over the North Sea.  Despite the favourable weather conditions and a sea state of 3-4, no cetaceans were sighted throughout the morning transect.  Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Little Auks were seen together with Gannets battling valiantly against the wind! 

After a short lunch break the team began the final transect.  Towards the late afternoon, a large flock of Kittiwakes were sighted portside with a raft of Guillemots and a diving Gannet.  A fishing vessel passed nearby and at last the portside observer spotted several splashes of an unidentified small cetacean.  No further cetaceans were sighted throughout the remaining transect and weather conditions began to deteriorate.  Together with failing light, the team completed their final transect and left the bridge in high spirits and very satisfied with this first survey on the Ficaria Seaways.       


We would like to thank Captain Anders Hall and all the crew on board the Ficaria Seaways for being so welcoming to the ORCA survey team and thank you to DFDS for this opportunity.


Marine Mammals Sighted:

Harbour Porpoise  x4
Unidentified Small Cetacean   x1
Harbour Seal  x1
Unidentified Seal   x2

Birds Sighted:

At  sea:
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Gull
Herring Gull
Little Auk


Gothenburg port:
Common Eider
Hooded Crow

Mute Swan
Red-breasted Merganser
Goldeneye Duck
Tufted Duck
Peregrine Falcon