Giants in June
by firmm Team
Text: Brigitte according notes from Katharina, photos: firmm
Watching a Fin Whale is always something very special, because you don't get to see this baleen whale very often. It is probably the rarest whale we see here in the Strait of Gibraltar out of all seven species. We had already missed these giants this season and were hoping for an encounter soon.
So it happened that our captain Antonio, who is always on the lookout for Fin Whales, was not on the boat on the 14th of June. The other crew members made a joke of it and sent him a message before the boat left at 10.00 a.m., saying that today was the day, we would see the first one of the season. And they were to be proved right. At 11.20 am we spotted three Fin Whales swimming west. Much to the amusement and gloating of the crew and the annoyance of Antonio.
In the second half of June, we were indeed gifted with many sightings of the two big whales. On the 18th of June we saw one Sperm Whale per trip, on the 20th one at 11.05 am. But it got even better. The 22nd of June brought us one Sperm Whale on the first excursion and immediately 15 minutes after the start of the 2nd excursion a Fin Whale swimming towards the west, as is usual at this time of year. Then everything went on in quick succession. A Sperm Whale at 13.50, the next one at 14.05 and then another one at 14.10. And so, it continued the next day.
On the 23rd of June we also had the pleasure of seeing three of the giant toothed whales. The first one we could observe well, then we saw another one further away and another one in the distance. On the 25th, it was again the Fin Whales that thrilled us: After an already very good trip with Pilot Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins, we were already on our way back, we made out a blow from a distance. It was a mother with her young. Then we spotted three more fountains further away. The blow of both large whales is easy to distinguish from all the others in the Strait of Gibraltar, because only the Fin Whale has two blowholes in the middle of its head and only the Sperm Whale has its blowhole off centre. To the left in front, so that the exhaled breath goes to the left at an angle of 45 degrees.
Eventually we caught up with the animals, who were swimming rapidly in a westerly direction. For the guests on board, after an already good trip, a real Fin Whale spectacle was unfolding. The breath of the three baleen whales sprayed up into the air was an amazing end to the day.
On the 28th of June a Sperm Whale surprised us, and the next day two Fin Whales passed us once again.
On the last day of June, a wonderful moment awaited us as soon as we left at 4pm. We gave way to the big ferry going from Tarifa to Tangier and lined up after it to leave the harbour. Shortly afterwards, we spotted two Fin Whales in the wake of the ferry.
The ferry quickly picked up speed and disappeared, but we were able to accompany and observe the animals for a while. On this trip we also saw a school of Striped Dolphins for the first time in a long time and a large group of Pilot Whales, consisting of about 20 animals and their newborn.