Celebrating Bastille’s Day in the English Channel!
Hello to you all!
We are back on this sixth week on-board DFDS Transmanche Ferries between Dieppe and Newhaven with more passengers, more sightings and more summer vibes! But first of all, I would like to share with you a fun anecdote from this week!
As you know, I switch between boats from one day to the other because of the crossing times. Weirdly enough, I had the same conversation with the Officers on both ferries. We were talking about the differences in terminology in both languages; where in French we categorize the term “whale” for baleen whales only (i.e largest cetaceans with baleen plates), this does not replicate in English. For instance, a pilot whale is called “globicephale” in French and is considered a type of large dolphin, but not a whale. Same goes for the sperm whale, called “cachalot” in French, not seen as a whale but as a unique large cetacean. It can be quite confusing to go whale watching with people from both nationalities; where the English-speakers would shout they have seen a whale, French-speakers would not have seen the same animal. This led to explaining the origins of the name sperm whale. Do you know where it comes from?
Sperm whales have a very pronounced head, being 1/3 of their body and containing an incredible large organ at the front of the brain. Scientists have discovered that they use this organ for buoyancy as they are the ones going the deepest and longest underwater in the cetacean order. The blowholes, equivalent of a nose located on the top of their head, contain two canals, one leading to the respiratory system and the other one surrounding this organ. While taking their last breath before diving, they fill the second canal with cold water, which will help the organ to reach a rigid/solid state and creating a natural lest for the whale. That way, the animal can go down faster to 2000 meters deep. Once it is done foraging, the whale will use the blood vessels englobing the organ to warm it up and turn it back into a liquid state, as a way to go back up faster. Amazing right?! When the first sperm whale was killed by hunters, they hit the head, being the easiest spot to target, and the organ’s composite was in-between liquid and solid state and white. The hunters mistakenly thought it was sperm giving the whale this unfortunate name and labelled the organ the spermaceti. You can easily imagine the expressions on the Officers’ faces after learning that, I personally won’t forget!
The crossings this week were quite busy with the highest attendance on Sunday afternoon with 520 passengers! This meant numerous presentations for both nationalities, presenting the material in French while talking in English. Passengers seem to find this solution fair and adjustable for everyone. Most of the French are even quite pleased to listen in English as it is practise for their vacations in the UK. And it is not uncommon to run into them on their way back to France, some of them recommending our talks to their friends and family on the crossing! Thank you for your support, it makes running this programme even more pleasant than it already is. On Saturday, 40 minutes after departing Newhaven, I was called to the Bridge after they spotted a grey seal on the surface straight ahead on a mirror-like water. Sadly, the animal dove under the ferry before I got a chance to see it.
We finished off the week with Bastille’s Day and once we were at the docks on Sunday evening, we were greeted with beautiful fireworks to celebrate the National French Day. I could not have asked for a better way to end the week!
Happy Bastille’s Day to you all!
ORCA Wildlife Officer – The English Channel
Photo credit: Fireworks to celebrate Bastille's day taken by Sabine a DFDS Staff member on board