A taste of some weather, and a great view of pilot whales

The first week of our cruise has shown us the calm side of the North Atlantic; light winds, calm seas, gentle swell and a lot of fog. Yesterday we had calm seas and glorious sunshine for a while too. These conditions couldn’t last of course, and today we had a taste of what are probably more normal conditions in this area. The winds increased, blew away the mist and the waves picked up. This morning as I woke up we were steaming into the wind and swell and this made for some impressive pitching, causing waves to crash over the bow of the ship.

As a seasoned North Atlantic seagoer this felt more familiar to me than the last few days, but for some scientists this led to a very unwelcome renewed feeling of seasickness. But they grimly carried on working, with pale faces and shaking hands, as we sympathised and tried to help. Hopefully they will have adjusted to the motion by tomorrow.

Some warmer air has come with this wind and so some of us were standing outside waiting for our turn to sample, admiring the view from the starboard deck and enjoying the freshness of the air. Unfortunately for those closest to the rail, a sizeable wave smashed against side of the ship and showered them with cold salty water. This was highly amusing to the victims as well as the bystanders, but a face-full of sea water is a bit of a surprise. Good job we were all wearing our waterproofs!

The waves and white-horses were not the only impressive view on offer this morning. As we watched the monitors showing data streaming in from the CTD, some pilot whales appeared in the distance. These small cetaceans are easy to spot because they arrive in family groups and circle the ship coming gradually closer and closer. They spent quite a bit of time at the surface and gave us a clear view of their black bulbous heads and chunky dorsal fins. They are a familiar sight across this part of the world but I never tire of seeing them.

Penny Holliday

Image: Pilot whales

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