'Into the Blue' with Tom Reade

 Tom Reade, Silurian Support

Tom Reade, Silurian Support

The 'Blue Planet II: Into the Blue' extra gives us a fascinating insight into the efforts it takes to realise the wonderful footage we see on our screens each episode.

Like the Blue Planet series, it takes a huge amount of preparation, effort and dedication from our team to deliver our conservation programmes aboard our research vessel, Silurian.  Over the coming weeks, members of the team will share their own ‘Into the Blue’ moments, highlighting some of their most memorable times aboard Silurian

This week, Tom Reade, our former First Mate and current maintenance guru, shares one of his top experiences...

We were travelling up the little Minch, when one of the volunteers shouted “Sighting”. Unsure what was, we scanned the coastline trying to catch a glimpse of the animal. Then we saw it, it was a fin, far away but distinctive enough to recognise. Kerry [the Biodiversity Officer] shouted out “it’s a killer whale”. There was a buzz amongst the group as suspense began to build. We had to move quickly and get Silurian on course as they were far off and we didn’t want to miss them.

Finally, after what felt like a lifetime we caught up with them, luckily they were hanging around off Waternish Point (Skye) and didn’t seem to be in a hurry. As we approached them, we could see that it was a small group. The two females came really close to us and I quickly climbed up the crow’s nest to get a better look. It was amazing, looking down on the water, I could see the white of her eye patch and belly through the water as she dived under Silurian’s bow. The rest of the team couldn’t see her so I shouted down instructions to Kerry to help her get photographs as she surfaced to breathe. From up here you could get a good idea of just how big they are. The males are even bigger, but they were hanging back a bit from the boat.
 A maximum of eight killer whales now remain in unique West Coast Community Pod.

A maximum of eight killer whales now remain in unique West Coast Community Pod.

In total, there were four of them, two males and two females. Everyone on board was intrigued to know who they were, we knew for definite that they were from the West Coast Community and that one of the males was John Coe (he has a very obvious notch missing from his fin). The females were much harder to identify though, especially when you just get glimpses of them from different angles. Everyone was doing on the spot ID, trying to figure out who was who.

Later that evening, once everyone had calmed down, we had a look through the photos and noticed a large bite shaped chunk missing from John Coe’s fluke, which looked suspiciously like a shark bite. Looking back at the photos, we also confirmed that it had been Money Penny, Lulu and Aquarius that we had seen with John Coe.

As First Mate on Silurian, I was lucky enough to encounter the killer whales three times over the years and each time was as exciting as the last. The great thing about them is that you just never know when they are going to show up and surprise you!
 John Coe, Lulu and Money Penny heading off into the distance after an remarkable encounter.

John Coe, Lulu and Money Penny heading off into the distance after an remarkable encounter.

Feel inspired by Blue Planet II and want to get involved with marine conservation efforts? Why not join us on board Silurian in 2018?  Experience magnificent wildlife, explore spectacular Hebridean landscapes and make a valuable contribution to our marine conservation.

We believe scientific evidence is the foundation of effective conservation. Our Cetacean Research Programme delivers that evidence, but we need you to help us!