Best voyages for Cetaceans
Whales are there if you know where, when and how to look.
Even down here in Cornwall we get the odd glimpse of whales on our longer trips when crossing the English Channel, La Manche, to Brittany. In the Channel we seePilot Whales and very occasionally in the Isles of Scilly get to see Minke Whale. However on these voyages cetacean sightings are a bonus and not something we can guarantee at all. Sailing in the Fal and the South Coast of Cornwall we quite often see Common Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise with the occasional appearance of Bottle Nosed Dolphin. I just wish we could turn the clock back a hundred years and see the waters as they used to be teaming with cetaceans before we hunted them to near extinction.
Looking is the key, and keeping a good lookout is a major safety feature for any sailing vessel, if you do it with a view to spotting whales, dolphin and porpoise you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you see.
Azores - Whale Hunters turned Environmentalists
Whale hunting was historically a major source of income in the Azores. The local island communities continue to reap the benefits of being on the migration trail but now they have turned to whale watching and cetacean research, replacing their bloodier past. A tall ship (like a whaling ship) has a great advantage over island boats for cetacean spotting – a crows nest vantage point. If you are on the royal yard and you see a pod of whales spouting, we don't think you will be able to resist the Captain Ahab / Moby Dick moment. Yes, both Classic Sailing directors have been caught shouting "Thar she blows !"
Humpback Whale migration in the Spring
March April is a good time to be in the Azores as Humpback whales pass through the islands on their annual migration. The more time you can spend at sea in deep oceanic waters, the more chance you have of spotting whales and dolphins. Large sperm whales have also been regularly sighted off the islands.
Antarctica – not so much South Georgia
The main whale you will see on a voyage to Antarctica is the Humpback Whale, shown at the top of the page, where a family of four played and nosed around Europa for an hour and half. The Humpback Whales have come from the warm tropical waters where they gave birth. They escort the young calves southwards to the summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic Convergence Zone. Once they have feed for the summer season they head north to the tropics for the next breeding season.
South Georgia is not the best place to see whales. Commercial whaling only stopped here in the 1960’s and it seems whales have a long memory and they appear to be still avoiding the area. Only recently a whale was found with a harpoon in it that they can tell was manufactured and used in the 1890’s; that’s some age!
The rarest amazing sighting is the sheer scale and size of Blue Whales. Adam saw twelve Blue Whales in one day; quite a unique experience considering that they believe there less than two thousand in the whole of the world’s oceans. Southern Right Whales and high speed Finn Whales are also seen.
Dusky Dolphin shown below, photo by Debbie Purser