From a nature perspective, what can Gavan expect to see out on the Atlantic Ocean?
While Gavan is in one of the most remote spots on the planet he is not totally alone.
He is now in flying fish territory and has already come across some. They have the habit of unexpectedly landing on deck unannounced a they escape pursuit of bigger fish. BBC have a great clip showing these amazing creatures escaping predators.
It is not unusual to find one dead on deck in the morning in this part of the ocean. While edible they are quite small and very boney.
As he moves further west he will start to see more wildlife. He has already come across whales in the distance. This isn’t his first encounter though. Off the Cork coast last summer, on the morning after his first solo night passage he saw his support boat photographing a nearby Fin whale. It was then that he realised the source of the booming spray noise he had been hearing alongside him all night. Fin whales are about 15m long, over twice the length of his boat and a whole lot bigger. This one had been keeping him company as he approached The Old Head of Kinsale a well known feeding area for whales. Whales are curious and often approach boats at sea, especially when they are in remote places offshore. They are also very plentiful around the Irish coast, check out www.iwdg.ie to see the latest sightings. Gavan was a guest on Celtic Mist, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s research boat, in Baltimore last Summer. Simon Berrow, the CEO of IWDG supplied him with identification charts to carry on board so he can now tell which of these huge animals is paying him a visit.
A small black bird appeared near Doireann a few times in recent days. He hasn’t managed to identify it yet and is striving to get a photograph. This will be important 'cos given his current practice of rowing on a couple of hours sleep he may have to be forgiven for hallucinating. Finding land birds out to sea is not that unusual. They can get caught in weather systems or simply hitch lifts on ships.
As he gets into more tropical waters he will likely see turtles, very colourful fish and more sea birds. Hopefully he will get some underwater footage with his go-pro.
The most abundant wildlife Gavan is encountering is actually unwanted! barnacles and weed are growing on Doireann’s hull. The boat has a coating of antifoul which is a thin paint containing copper which discourages growth but does not eliminate it. Once the water is warm the surface of the boat offers a fine home for a variety of critters and plants. Ships have struggled with fouling for centuries. Very toxic coatings did work but were thankfully outlawed for environmental reasons. All sorts of materials have been tried but mother nature keeps winning. The growth on a ship can extend over 1 foot thick which slows the boat down and increases fuel costs considerably. The effect on Doireann is the same so Gavan has taken to hopping overboard and swimming under the boat to gently scrape the surface clear of the biofilm before it grows enough to create drag. Apparently the little hole for his watermaker is a favourite spot for them to congregate and this needs to be particularly clean to ensure good flow.
If he really wanted company he could allow the growth to happen on the hull. It acts as a dinner table for various fish that come along to nibble on it. Handy if he needed to go fishing!