'Thar she blows'
It was Rupert who spotted the glistening reflection of sunlight on water droplets nearly a mile away off our port bow. Whales! We have previously spotted a pair of [probably] minke whales at a distance near Scotland but this was different. A number of 'blows' in the same spot suggested a gam (the collective noun for whales) on or near the surface. With the determined resolve of Captain Ahab, we altered course to take a look.
Orca - Killer Whales
Food again now. Members of the Royal Yacht Squadron who attended the autumn Cookery Weekend at the Castle will remember the wonderful tutelage and fare provided, inter alia, by Michelin starred Chris Galvin (Galvin at Windows), Gioconda Scott of Trasierra and micro-baker Rose Prince.
I regret many of the lessons learned remain beyond me, but last night's more agricultural (but wholesome and tasty) chicken and leek pie was adorned by the only skill I have retained from the event - a decorative swan [of sorts] photographed here in tribute and thanks to Victoria Raymond, Emma Preece and all those who organised and contributed to such a fun and educational weekend.
Now, I accept the photos are not prize-winning (you try from a rolling deck), but the unmistakeably tall fin and blaze of white confirmed beyond doubt a multiple group of killer whales. Two groups, in fact, although one was too far away to see clearly. A cluster of fulmar and a single predatory skua over the site suggested the orca were feeding - perhaps on one or more of the fulmar whose companions had grouped to commiserate their loss - or, more likely, fight for the scraps. As we approached more closely, the whales were off; sounding and not to be seen again. It was a wonderful sight and perhaps a taster of things to come. It is certainly an experience we hope to witness more of as our expedition continues. Enthused, we altered course once more for Svalbard.
The Soldier's Breeze' we spoke of in an earlier blog has begun to fill in; albeit, at this stage with the limp lacklustre of ......[I'll check myself here before insulting anyone] .... but it is certainly not yet the magnificent gusto befitting a crew pair of ex General Officers. In an confused swell, without the dampening effect of wind in the sails, it makes for an uncomfortable ride.
The [Dying?] Swan
And finally, a word of anticipatory warning. We are now at 71ºN and in a few days will be approaching the northern edge of the Inmarsat near global guaranteed footprint. There is a chance that comms may become more difficult and our ability to update the blog with photos etc more of a challenge. To be fair, we haven't witnessed any decline in signal strength yet and our wonderful Sailor Fleet Broadband 250 terminal has been pumping the 1s and 0s back to the web like a trojan. But it is best to be warned and a timely reminder to readers (if we have any?) that if we are 'off air' for a while it does not mean we're in trouble! We'll get info back somehow but it may be a little more sparse - not dissimilar to our onboard ablutions regime in these northern waters!
It even worked here!
Look forward to further updates