Minke whale on first Newcastle-Amsterdam survey of 2015

20th May 2015

Library photograph - White-beaked dolphin by Anna Bunney.  This species can be seen on this route

This was the first Newcastle to Amsterdam survey for the 2015 season and the team eagerly gathered at the North Shields terminal to board the DFDS Princess Seaways. With a prompt departure and after entering the North Sea, the team were on the bridge and greeted with a sea state 2/3 and minimal swell. The visibility was excellent and we were hopeful of seeing some cetaceans, and we were not disappointed when the first sighting of a single harbour porpoise on the starboard side was recorded.

As the excellent conditions continued, another three harbour porpoise were spotted including a brief view of a mother and calf pair. We also enjoyed views of a solitary grey seal and a brief glimpse of a minke whale surfacing ahead of the ship that seemed to be moving towards the port side. Sadly, it did not resurface.

After a busy period of activity, things had become a little quiet, when on the port side, a succession of splashes were observed, which appeared to be from a probable harbour porpoise. Despite our best attempt to make a definite identification, we were unable to confirm this, but it was still an amazing sight! No further cetaceans were observed and as the light faded, we decided to hold a quick debrief and review of the protocol before retiring for the evening. What a very productive couple of hours.

Following on from the success of the previous evening, we were hopeful for further sightings and were back on the bridge surveying by 06:30. Visibility remained excellent, but the conditions had deteriorated to a sea state 4/5 and unfortunately the sunrise brought glare on the port side which at times made surveying difficult, but as we approached the wind farms off the Dutch coast a single harbour porpoise was sighted. Before we knew it, our second transect had ended as the crew prepared to berth the ship in Ijmuiden.

We disembarked and on the journey into Amsterdam we enjoyed some bird watching from the coach observing species such as great crested grebe, pink footed goose with goslings and tufted duck. After a few warm and sunny hours wandering around Amsterdam and a superb lunch, it was time to head back to the Princess Seaways. Unfortunately, the conditions we had experienced in the morning stayed for the remainder of the return journey with no further cetaceans sighted despite reports of probable white-beaked dolphin being observed outside the River Tyne harbour just the day before.  Our survey concluded in Newcastle with an early arrival.

The whole team agreed that it had been a fantastic survey and we would like to say a huge thank you to Captain Kim Brogaard Carlsson and the crew of the Princess Seaways and to DFDS for their continued support of ORCA.


Total sightings:

Harbour porpoise  6

Minke whale  1

Grey seal  1


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Birds at sea:







Lesser black-backed gull

Great black-back gull

Sandwich tern – flock of over 200 individuals

Common scoter

Herring gull


Birds on land:



Mute swan



Grey heron

Great crested grebe

Pink footed goose and 12 goslings


Tufted duck

Ring necked parakeet


Wood pigeon