Meet Anna – Our onboard ORCA Wildlife Officer

September 19, 2014

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Hello! I’m Anna and I’m the ORCA Wildlife Officer onboard DFDS Seaways’ KING SEAWAYS, sailing back and forth from Newcastle to Amsterdam. And what an amazing first month it has been on board!

On my first day, 1st April, the sea was beautifully flat and glassy – we couldn’t have wished for better whale & dolphin watching conditions. First, we spotted a small group of white beaked dolphins on the horizon, and the next half an hour was non-stop with porpoises, and one dolphin who jumped out very close to the ship, getting the passengers very excited! The next thing I heard was Sara’s (the Senior Wildlife Officer) very excited voice saying “that’s not a dolphin…..that’s not a dolphin!! It’s a whale!”, as a minke whale surfaced twice on the port side of the ship. We rushed up to the top deck with passengers in tow to try and catch a glimpse of the whale, but unfortunately it did not surface again.

I must admit that the Ijumuiden side of the crossing has been more productive in terms of the number of whale and dolphin sightings. Over the long Easter weekend, the ship was busy with families heading to Holland, and the anticipation out on deck was high as the sea was so calm. We had to wait for about 45 minutes for our first sighting, a pair of harbour porpoises seen right on the horizon. As the boat approached them, the far away black blobs turned into a great view of these fascinating harbour porpoises. We then saw another group of four porpoises, even closer to the boat. This sighting will stay in my memory for a long time, as they were jumping out of the water, a behaviour I’ve never seen before in porpoises, creating a huge splash! This gave everyone a chance to study (briefly) their stubby faces and small bodies.

We’ve had this same experience on numerous evenings, with non-stop harbour porpoises every 10 to 20 minutes. Lots of passengers have been joining us out on deck and were thrilled to see their first cetaceans in the wild. Porpoise pods have even made passengers ‘oooo’ and ‘ahhh’ as if watching fireworks! On some evenings, the water has been so calm and clear, that you could even catch a glimpse of them swimming underwater – brilliant!

I also made it into Amsterdam for King’s Day (the King’s Birthday), which was quite an experience! The party atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone was dressed in orange, and orange bunting and balloons adorned the streets. There were street parties, cake sales, vintage clothing sales and even parties on the canal boats!

Life onboard has been different to any other job I’ve had, but I must say I’ve become quite attached to my cabin, and I’m enjoying learning about everyone else’s jobs onboard.

I’ve also enjoyed running our fantastic ORCA wildlife centre onboard, where we run activities, interactive presentations and children’s activities to inspire passengers about the amazing marine and coastal wildlife right on our doorstep.

One evening, as the sun set over the North Sea that night, I reflected on the evening and was thinking how lucky I was to have the beautiful North Sea as my ‘office’.

If you’re interested in ORCA, please have a look at our website: www.orcaweb.org.uk

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