Survey Summary: Teen Research Expedition 1

 The team whilst on our mooring in Tobermory Bay (minus Simon who is taking the photo!)

The team whilst on our mooring in Tobermory Bay (minus Simon who is taking the photo!)

The team assembled at Tobermory harbour on the 27th June with our newest team members travelling quite a distance from Scotland, France and Sweden.  

This trip was the first of three week-long Teen Team Research Expeditions, providing 16 and 17 year olds with a unique opportunity to live on board Silurian, train to be marine mammal scientists and get hands on work experience out at sea.

During the week, we travelled 177.5 nautical miles collecting visual and acoustic data whilst covering the waters out towards Coll, as well as the Sound of Mull, Loch Linnhe and Lynn of Lorn. For the first time ever in Silurian’s history, we also surveyed Loch Eil, up past Fort William, as well as Ardmucknish Bay (north of Dunstaffnage).  

 Track lines for Teen Research Expedition 1

Track lines for Teen Research Expedition 1

With the changeable Scottish weather, the team were put to the test, surveying in sea states ranging from mirror calm, to large waves with whitecaps as far as the eye could see. At one point, we even came off effort, sheltering from the waves as they crashed over the deck! However, each evening, thanks to Skipper Brian’s anchorage choices, we sheltered among beautiful landscapes in millpond conditions. A welcome change of scenery from our day-to-day lives, and a great way to explore Scotland!

 Great conditions for spotting!

Great conditions for spotting!

 An exhilarating moment, heading into wind through the Corran Narrows.

An exhilarating moment, heading into wind through the Corran Narrows.

 A beautiful sunset, whilst anchored in Loch Eil for the night.

A beautiful sunset, whilst anchored in Loch Eil for the night.

During the survey, we had a total of 33 sightings, encountering four different species of marine mammal – harbour porpoise, common dolphin, common seal and grey seal. 

Our most unexpected encounter wastwo common dolphins bow riding Silurian as we sailed from Corran Ferry up towards Fort William. Common dolphins tend to be seen in open water, so to look down and see them surfacing from the dark tinted waters of the loch, was really quite a sight.

Cetacean of the week has to go to the harbour porpoises though, with sightings of these little guys making up 56% of our encounters. Especially,as the individuals we encountered were particularly pleasing to watch, swimming up to Silurian showing their inquisitive nature. Not many people are lucky enough to catch these rare glimpses of porpoises, through crystal clear water, so we all felt incredibly privileged.

 One of the inquisitve porpoises, surfacing next to Silurian.

One of the inquisitve porpoises, surfacing next to Silurian.

Here’s an extract from the blog, describing one of these magical encounters;

‘Their dark bodies almost seemed to roll out of the water and back in again. There was a small pod of them that came close enough to the boat that I could hear their quick but steady breaths as they surfaced. Everytime I catch a glimpse of the gentle, streamlined body of a cetacean, it takes my breath away every time. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing them.

What makes a Silurian survey however, is not just the sailing and the sightings, but the people themselves. Over the week, we had lots of laughs and learnt more about each other’s cultures, languages and ways of life. Our evenings were filled learning new games, challenging each other to games of cards and many hot chocolates. 

The crew would like to extend a huge thank you to the citizen science team who made this trip a big success; we hope you had as much fun as we did!

This trip was also possible thanks to funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, players of People’s Postcode Lottery through Postcode Local Trust, the Robertson Trust and Bòrd na Gàidhlig. 

Feeling inspired to get involved with our marine conservation efforts? Our Teen Research Expeditions for 2018 are now fully booked, however we will shortly be announcing our 2019 survey dates. For updates please check our website or social media.