PICTURES: Exotic wildlife turn HMS Echo into an ark
A Westcountry-based science vessel has taken on board some unusual passengers as it charts the waters around the Indian Ocean.
HMS Echo has become temporary haven to a clutch of exotic wildlife whose presence has been captured on camera by a fascinated crew.
The Devonport-based ship has spent four weeks charting the waters around the Yemeni island of Socotra, concentrating on the unfathomed mysteries of the deep as part of a broader mission to improve Admiralty charts.
During their work, the crew have captured large mammals in the water and insects and birds which have been resting on their ropes and decks.
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While at sea in the poorly charted waters about 150 miles off the Horn of Africa and 200 miles from the Arabian Peninsula the crew were treated to spectacular displays from marine and bird life, everything from the playful antics of dolphins and whales to weary travellers temporarily resting onboard the 3,500-tonne ship before continuing their travels.
Three North African-resident birds – an African sacred ibis, Eurasian spoonbill and hoopoe (upupa epops) – along with numerous species of a large grasshopper and dragonfly took refuge briefly aboard.
The ship's company also experienced a spectacular display from super pods of common bottlenose dolphins and playful antics of humpback whales.
Able Seaman Kev Rail said it had been an education.
"I am most impressed by the hoopoe," he said.
"The bird's crest is like a tomahawk or a Sixties quiff!"
Echo is part way through an 18-month mission to improve Admiralty Charts – used by most of the world mariners – by gathering data using a hi-tech sonar.
The ship previously surveyed 20 wrecks during a concerted spell off Libya before sailing to its current tasking and will soon move to join the sprawling Exercise Cougar 13 deployment.