Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wild North Sea

18 miles out into the North Sea, 100m of water below, I take a last breath and dive down into the olive blue.
Time seems to stop.
I hear a whistle and three white beaked dolphin appear out of the gloom, gliding effortlessly towards me.
A barely audible series of clicks follow as they examine me over a closing gap.

Their patterns vary slightly, a white side blaze and saddle patch, a large sickle shaped dorsal fin and a variety of scars and rake marks along their robust bodies.
Despite the dramatic patterning their outlines seem to merge with the background as they move.
They are majestic.
Moments like these, shared with wildlife are special indeed.

I realise that I am exceedingly fortunate.
I glance upwards, towards the roof of this new world as the sun dances on the waves above.
A calm peace lengths every moment.
A dolphin slows and seems to float by, studying me. We observe each other. 

A pounding reminds me that my efforts to remain for any time in this world are futile. These brief moments are to be treasured.

We live in a materialistic world, where all too often people are more concerned about what you have rather than who you really are.
A world where possessions dominate and it is all too easy to forget the hardship and suffering that others face.
These dolphin are beautiful creatures, they have no possessions; the very concept would be alien.
We have a great deal to learn from nature and the natural world around us.

As the "developed" world races ahead with a 24hr instant society, where more is expected from everyone for less, where despite tremendous technological advances we are working longer and harder, the gap between modern living and the tranquil calm of nature seems to widen.
If this "advancement" comes at the expense of nature, wildlife and the environment then we may find that the lessons to be learnt are a harsh reminder of our arrogance.

Twitter @Sealdiver

Sunday, 23 June 2013

At one with nature... 

People ask me to describe the "emotion", "how do you feel?" when a wild seal interacts...
Life can be hectic, at times stressful - we rush around at 100 mph juggling priorities and attempting to find a balance. I am very lucky indeed to be healthy, to have a good (if rather stressful) career, to love my work and to have a very loving, supportive, understanding & caring family.

At times we all need to relax and try to appreciate the moment...
When I escape underwater and the sea closes in over me, beneath the waves, I find a calm. When in that environment a wild animal (in this case a seal) chooses to approach and interact for no obvious reward (NB I never use food or bait of ANY kind -it would alter behaviour and be potentially dangerous) it is a privilege.

Time stands still.

Work and the concept of stress seem very distant.

You look into the eyes of the seal and there is a connection, a warmth despite the cold North Sea waters surrounding you.

There is tranquility, peace and a certain magic.

When a wild seal grasps your hand in its front flipper and responds in turn to your squeeze with a gentle squeeze of your gloved hand it makes you realise that nature is truly special.

Animals are probably far more intelligent than we generally accept.
We must respect our environment. 
We must protect our natural heritage. 
We must not let greed, ignorance or materialism destroy something so precious and yet so vulnerable.

With specific reference to grey seals there are more African elephants in the world than grey seals.
They need protection with c.40% of the World's Grey Seal population around the UK coastline.
Occasionally a grey seal may take the odd salmon from a net, but much of that behaviour is due to the fact that large scale factory fishing has depleted the seals primary food - sandeel. (*More tonnes of sandeel are fished from the North Sea than any other fish (!) primarily for animal/fish feed & fish oil supplements - Sandeel are towards the bottom of the food chain and their overfishing has a knock on effect with puffin, guillemot and other birds as well as other fish such as cod)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

It's a strange world...

I can hear my own breathing as exhaust bubbles rise beside my ears, a blanket of cold water wraps itself around me, slightly numbing exposed flesh. Weightless, floating just off the kelp covered seabed, I am alone.

Alone but not for long... a familiar shape glides out of the gloom, a silvery,grey/black body and large dark eyes, the seal hangs motionless only feet away.  I feel calm, tranquil and privileged to be at home in the company of these gentle creatures. The world above the water seems a long way away.
As I mimic certain noises and use subtle hand movements the seal interacts.

This is not a pet but a wild grey seal. It may look a little like a labrador dog, but whilst an average male labrador weighs 34kg, the mammal beside me weighs approximately 160kg.

It's whiskers spread out and seem to actively vibrate, acquiring information on it's surroundings. Seals can detect a fish from over 100m away using their whiskers; they can even detect the shape of the fish at that
range, calculating information from the hydrodynamic trails left from the fish as they move through the water.

The seal grasps my hand in it's front flipper and holds it tightly. A gentle squeeze is returned by the seal and in that moment there is a genuine feeling of harmony with nature and the natural world.

This is not a feeling that can readily be reproduced with material possessions or man made thrills.
I realise that I am very fortunate to be able to do this.

Life races by and to have time to stop and pause, to collect your thoughts, to indulge in any form of true relaxation is a privilege.
Work, family commitments, shopping, exercise, bills, car issues, insurance, household work, appointments for one thing or another etc we all rush around so much that there is often little time to think, to reflect and to appreciate family, friends and the natural world around us.
Christmas approaches now at a quickening pace and I have mixed feelings of happiness at having some holiday time with family, tinged with a degree of guilt as I think about those not so fortunate, those who will be pleased just to make it through another day...