Silurian continues to protect Our Blue Planet
Our research vessel, Silurian, has enabled us to gain a greater understanding of the whale, dolphin and porpoise species found in Hebridean waters and the challenges they are faced with. She has also provided a platform for engaging with the kids that live on the west coast of Scotland, inspiring the next generation of marine conservationists and indeed, adults who will work on the sea.
Before joining the Trust, Silurian was used as a filming platform for the first series of The Blue Planet, attributing many of the modifications made - installing crow’s nest, a hydrophone and a new engine (which is operational to this day) – to that time.
Follow Silurian’s journey below from her build in the early 80’s to her purchase by HWDT in 2002…
Originally built in the States by Sookum Marine, Silurian’s first owner was a geologist – hence the name. The Silurian Period was when coral reefs appeared in the sea, and the diversification of bony fish occurred. The next record we have of Silurian occurs in the 1990’s when she was picked up by the US Coastguard off the coast of Florida and impounded for smuggling cocaine into the US from Columbia, a rather unsavoury job for such a beautiful boat! Silurian was then bought in 1993 by a skilled carpenter. He completely rebuilt her interior - the inside stands testament to his skill, having been relatively untouched since then.
She then passed to Kit Rogers and Jessie Lane, who had just been commissioned by the BBC to work on the Open Oceans episode of a new nature documentary they were working on, The Blue Planet.
Kit and Jessie’s first charter was in the Bahamas to film dolphins, from there the Azores to film sperm whales, then pilot whales off the south of Spain. After this, Silurian spent four months surveying between Guadeloupe and Tobago for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
It was on this trip that Silurian had her first experience of environmental education. While stopping off at the many islands in this area, Silurian would take out local children for a short trip, many of whom had never seen their island from the sea before.
In the summer of 2000, Silurian headed back to the Azores for their final summer of filming The Blue Planet. Pressure was on this season. For years the crew had been trying, without any success, to film a bait-ball feeding frenzy. This summer was their final chance. It seemed that Silurian would always arrive that little bit too late, the camera crew getting into the water just as the last fish were being polished off.
Frustration built until finally, they hit the jackpot; a frenzy involving yellowfin tuna, shearwaters and even a Mako shark. What was filmed that day formed the spectacular climax of episode three; Open Oceans, a clip of which can be seen below.
Following her adventures with Kit and Jessie, the Trust seized on the opportunity, officially purchasing Silurian on the 4th of January 2002.
Now, fifteen years on, Silurian has welcomed aboard hundreds of volunteer citizen scientists, amassing the largest database of its kind in the UK, and been a floating classroom for children on almost every inhabited Hebridean island.
We believe scientific evidence is the foundation of effective conservation. Our Cetacean Research Programme delivers that evidence, but we need you to help us. Citizen science is at the heart of our research; providing the opportunity to contribute directly to safeguarding the whales, dolphins and porpoises of the Hebrides, whilst having the experience of a lifetime.