For the first time, a BBC One television crew joined a Marine Institute scientific survey, in search of seabirds and marine mammals in the offshore waters around Ireland and Scotland. Their voyage on the marine research vessel RV Celtic Explorer, was recently screened on The BBC One Show as a four-part series.
The BBC One television crew members joined scientists undertaking the WESPAS (Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic) Survey in July 2017.
The WESPAS survey is an annual acoustic survey of herring and boarfish in the oceans to the north, west and south of Ireland, and west of Scotland to determine the distribution and abundance of herring and boarfish stocks.
In the first episode, Chief Scientist from the Marine Institute Michael O'Malley shows BBC's Mike Dilger the route the RV Celtic Explorer will travel over the next 22 days, a the second part of a survey covering more than 5,000 nautical miles in total. After only a few hours into the survey, a huge pod of Common Dolphins surrounds the RV Celtic Explorer.
In episode two, and a week into the voyage and 100 miles from shore, the crew experience hostile weather conditions, and the RV Celtic Explorer sails through a Force 8 gale. Mike Dilger speaks to experienced fisherman and crewman aboard the RV Celtic Explorer Frank Kenny about the dangers of fishing. Near the Continental Shelf, several Risso's Dolphins are spotted leaping out of the water.
In episode three, Aidan Long, PhD student from NUI Galway, shows Mike Dilger how plankton samples are collected by the towed Gulf sampler, and views gelatinous zooplankton under the microscope. As the survey rounds the Butt of Lewis to the north of the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, Minke Whales can be seen close to the RV Celtic Explorer.
The final episode sees a huge flock of Gannets surround the RV Celtic Explorer, as scientists continue to catch fish for analysis. A Fin whale, the second largest mammal on the planet, is also spotted in the distance sprouting water 10 metres into the air. As the survey passes through the North Channel off the north east coast of Ireland, a Thresher shark leaps out of the water only metres from the vessel.
Watch the videos below to see The BBC One Show's four-part series: Dilger's Deep Sea Adventure.