As the cruise boat pulled in to the inaptly named Ferry Terminal on Rhum, someone shouted excitedly “Dolphins!” A woman was pointing to a couple of fins not far from the shore and about 50m from the boat. “No they’re sharks!” another passenger shouted and a little frisson of excitement travelled through the on lookers, and the fins which seemed to moving in concert began to thrash around.
It was a basking shark.
A gentle creature, that was feeding in the shallow coastal waters. We watched it for a while after the boat had landed and the other passengers had moved off into the Island. Apparently according to a fisherman it was rare to see them this close in to the harbour.
The journey from Arisaig to had been uneventful. Apart from the Shearwaters, Red Throated Divers, and Gannets that I had been watching, we had according to the Munch seen nothing of any interest until the Basking Sharks. Birds apparently do not count. “They are just birds dad, and they are boring!”
Rhum is a beautiful place.
It was warm and the sun shone from a clear blue sky. We set of briskly in the general direction of the village stores, in search of a cup of tea and maybe some cake.
With only three hours until the boat left, there was little time to get anymore than a brief feel for the Island. Mrs BW and I both agreed that we would like to return to spend longer. Maybe in a couple of years when the teenagers no longer want to come with us on holiday.
We arrived at the village hall having glanced briefly at the Victorian Castle which now doubles as a Museum and a Youth Hostel. The Hall was clearly the focal point of the small community.The walls were adorned with pictures done by children and of the latest weddings on the island.
We sat outside in a small courtyard and drank tea and eat bacon sandwiches. There was none of the hum of modern civilization. No traffic no background drone of cars. Just the twitter of birds and the occasional dog barking. The light was crystal clear. The white walls of the farmhouse and buildings shimmered in the heat, more Mediterranean than West Coast of Scotland.
Back at the boat we waited for a few stragglers and watched another Basking Shark feeding on the far side of the bay. We set off and spent half an hour following the shark, getting close to it.
It seemed relatively unconcerned by us and our presence. We had been travelling for about thirty minutes and I was watching gannets plummet in into the sea after fish, causing small explosions as they hit the water. when the engine note changed and the boat slowed.
Something had been spotted.
25 pairs of eyes scanned the sea and then thirty metres from the stern a Minke Whale broke the surface briefly before sliding back into the depths again. I knew it was a Minke because a few seconds later there was an unpleasant fishy smell.
“What was that?” Someone said. I explained my Minke theory, there was a titter and a young German lad of 16 or so explained to anyone who would listen, that it was “Obviously a porpoise, these are boring animals, we have seen many of them.”
The Munch and the Weasel looked at me questioningly. They wanted to believe their dad but…. and then it surfaced again, I heard Mrs BW shout out that it was “Huge!”
Someone asked the Skipper what it was. He confirmed that it was a Minke.
“A Stinky Minke” offered the Weasel. The German youth suggested that we throw one of the dogs in to see if we could attract anything more interesting.
We tracked it for a while, almost ignoring the bottle nosed dolphins that were passing.
It was an awesome sight, a magnificent creature. Like all good things though it had to end and anxious to get back the skipper set off for Arisaig. A perfect day.