Last Sunday was the 2013 Great Dorset Beach Clean. This was my modest contribution…
Last Sunday was the 2013 Great Dorset Beach Clean. This was my modest contribution…
These industrial remains are on the Atlantic coast of the island of Harris, in the Western Isles. This is the site of Bunabhainneader Whaling Station. This was a Norwegian/ British venture, hunting whales in waters north of Shetland. The catches commonly included humpback, sperm, blue and bottlenose whales. The chimney is the only one surviving of three formerly used whilst ‘rendering’ whale blubber.
The whaling station was established c1907; this was over a century after Britain’s whaling industry had already peaked and gone into decline, largely due to decimation of Bowhead whales in the Arctic. Bunabhainneader was purchased by Lord Leverhulme in 1922, but failed to make profit and was closed in 1929. The site was briefly reopened in the early 1950s.
I think most folk would agree that – interesting and evocative as this site is - what it signified is best confined to our distant past.
Incidentally, Norway continue to have a quota of 1052 whales to ‘cull’ each year, currently killing 500-700 annually.
Watching the common seals at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, from an appropriate distance and in an appropriately quiet and non-polluting craft.
There are of course other ways to visit the seals.
Up early last Thursday, visiting the Common Seal colony at Blakeney Point by kayak. Three of us enjoyed quietly watching the hundreds of basking seals from an appropriate distance. Three or four swam out to see us in the tide race where we were sat, following our kayaks around. Most just continued to snore.
Another way to visit the colony is by tour boat. The photo below shows four tour boats simultaneously visiting the colony; another two were off to the right (should have taken the wide angle lens!). In a 90 minute period, we counted a dozen boats visiting the colony, then became profoundly depressed and gave up bothering to count any more.
Each tour boat was 25-40 foot long, crammed with dozens of tourists. Each emitted diesel exhaust fumes and at least one even had some kind of loud-hailer system with which to impart information to the customers. Most boats exceeded the harbour speed limit of 5 knots whilst ferrying tourists to and from the colony. Every boat went right up to the colony, practically at point blank range. If you went this close in a kayak they would certainly be disturbed, clearly over the years they have become immune to this constant harassment.
Incidentally, every single tour boat which passed us warned us away from the seal colony, claiming that kayaks disturbed or harmed the seals. They appear to lack a sense of irony, thereabouts.
Another seal boat skipper passed us (a mile from any seals) and – astonishingly - responded to our wave of greeting by staring at us in pure hatred and repeatedly making throat-slitting gestures, whilst standing behind his customers. The words on the side of the boat read, ‘Beans Seal Trips’. I subsequently looked this company up; apparently they won a ‘best water based tourism’ award.
A few pictures of the industrial wastelands of west Cornwall.
From South West Sea Kayaking…
Viewed from the water, the plethora of chimneys, engine houses, levels and tips do not jar. On the contrary, they are a hauntingly beautiful sight, blending as integral components of the landscape.
Finding Sanctuary is a project devoted to involving stakeholders (i.e. you and I) in the planning and development of further Marine Protected Areas in South West England. They sent the following message to water users … have a read through and please give serious consideration to responding;
Finding Sanctuary is the first ever project that gives people a real opportunity to be involved in plans to protect the marine environment in the south-west, and those behind the scheme say that this is a once in a generation chance for interested parties to make their views known.
There are now just six months left for sea users to come forward and share their information and observations about the areas of sea they use in the south-west, so that commercial and leisure interests can be taken into account in the planning of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).
No MCZs have yet been proposed for the south-west, with the exception of Lundy Island whose protected east coast will have its designation changed from a Marine Nature Reserve to a Marine Conservation Zone this month (January 12th 2010), making it the south-west’s first MCZ. Central to the process is a regional Steering Group incorporating a wide range of water users that will make its recommendations for new MCZs to Government in June 2011. Local MCZ Groups will work alongside the Steering Group so that local information and views can also be considered.
According to Joana Smith from Finding Sanctuary; “By the end of our research work we aim to have a definitive map showing how south-west waters are currently used. This information is vital for ensuring that commercial and leisure interests can be taken into account in deciding where Marine Conservation Zones should be placed and what activities need to be restricted in them. 2010 is a critical year – this isn’t an opportunity that is likely to occur again in the near future and the decisions that are made could have an impact on a whole range of waterborne activities. The message has to be – make your voice heard now before it is too late.”
While discussions with the fishing community are well advanced, Finding Sanctuary is still looking for input from a wide range of leisure sea users, including sea kayakers, kayak fishermen and kayak surfers, who could find their activities affected by the creation of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). Possible restrictions could include no anchoring areas, new speed limits or even no take zones.
So far over 700 sea anglers, 300 divers and 40 sailing and yacht clubs have shared their views and data with the project, but there are many more sea users in the region who have yet to get in touch. Finding Sanctuary is particularly keen to hear from kayakers, jetskiiers, kitesurfers, windsurfers and surfers as these groups are currently underrepresented.
The Royal Yachting Association’s Kate Moore says that people must act now. “If people miss this opportunity to speak out, they will be wasting their one chance to determine the future balance between marine conservation and the way we use our seas. We all know there will be difficult decisions ahead but those decisions have to be made based on the most comprehensive and up to date information.”
Any club, association or individual who wants to contribute information to the project can do so via www.mczmapping.org or by contacting their Liaison Officer to arrange an interview. The website www.finding-sanctuary.org also has a list of “drop-in days” for sea users in the south-west region.
Spike Searle – Cornwall & Isles of Scilly liaison officer
Lives in Newlyn, Cornwall (ex-fisherman)
John Weinberg – Dorset liaison officer
Lives in Swanage, Dorset (diving background)
David Murphy – Devon liaison officer
Lives in Brixham, Devon (ex-fisherman)
Martin Syvret – Somerset liaison officer
Lives near Exeter, Devon (works part-time, fisheries and aquaculture background)
Beth Henshall– Boating & Watersports liaison officer
Lives in Plymouth, Devon (sailor)
Sellafield nuclear processing centre is sited on the Irish Sea coast in west Cumbria. It was created (under the previous name of ‘Windscale’) in the late 1940′s as part of Britain’s atomic bomb project, and also generated electricity until decommissioning began in the late 1990′s, work which will continue until at least 2037.
Most of Britain’s nuclear power stations are based on the coast in places of relative solitude and natural beauty. Debate continues about the impact that rising sea levels will have upon their safety and longevity. However, additional coastal nuclear power stations are currently being planned.
This is the combined estuary of the Rivers Esk, Irt and Mite in west Cumbria. I chanced upon this place whilst out walking this summer, being stuck in the area by strong winds during a sea kayak trip. Behind me were the high sand dunes of the Eskmeals Dunes Nature Reserve, and behind that was Eskmeals Range, a weapons testing facility. The spot where I was standing covers over with saltwater at Spring Tides, these being the highest and lowest reaching tides that occur just after full moons and new moons.
Heather has spent this afternoon collating data on salt marshes. They’re more interesting than you might think.
Something terrible has happened in South Cornwall. At least twenty-six apparently healthy dolphins have stranded and died. The dolphins appear to have panicked and swum ashore into shallow tidal creeks between Carrick Roads and the Helford River, stranding along about 16 kilometres of coast.
A tragedy of this scale is almost unprecedented in our waters. It’s too early to ascertain the cause, but much is being made of the fact that a Naval Exercise was taking place in the area at the time.
An enormous tide of immigrants is believed to be heading for the coast of Cornwall and Devon, right at this very moment. Some will undoubtedly land on our privileged shores to seek sanctuary. Debate rages as to whether they are refugees from disaster or simply travelling opportunists, but all agree that they simply cannot stay here. There is a £50 reward for catching any of these asylum seekers and sending them home.
However … it is impossible not to feel some sympathy for their plight, for they have been at sea for fifteen years.
In 1992, 30 000 of these fellows left China to seek a new life in the USA. However, they were washed overboard in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This was to prove to be just the beginning of their ordeal. In the years since, they have drifted at the whim of ocean currents. They have travelled for over 17 000 miles across and around the oceans, including passing through the Arctic pack ice. Occasionally one of them makes it ashore, only to be caught and shipped back to their ‘owner’ in return for the bounty money. Soon they will begin to wash up on our shores, but for most of them, their voyage is far from over.
Amazing weather lately, winter seems a distant memory. Unfortunately, by heading off on holiday over Easter, I’ve managed to miss much of this precious settled period. Plus (and this really grates) I have to go to work Monday to Friday, when I’d much rather be paddling. I do hope that the sunshine lasts to the weekend, so that I can get back out on the water …
Metcheck…’What a remarkable first half to the month of April.
Some parts of the country, especially across England and Wales, are now approaching 3 weeks without any significant rainfall at all. The longevity of the dry weather and also the recent heat has been quite exceptional for the time of year.
It’s fantastic how the weather works. It was only a few months ago the UK was being lashed with gales and rain as part of a very wet and very mild winter. Three whole months were generally dominated by wet and windy conditions, then in the blink of an eye high pressure appears.’
Plans were unveiled this week for the creation of Marine Conservation Zones around the UK. I can’t claim to be 100% au fait with the complex interlinked ecological, environmental, economic, social and political factors involved in the management of the marine environment and which this White Paper attempts to address. However, as far as I can discern … the plans are a good thing. Here’s DEFRA’s blurb…
‘Our vision for Marine Conservation Zones
By 2020, we want a network of effectively managed sites comprising European marine sites and MCZs, including highly protected sites. We want this network to conserve enough rare, threatened and representative species and habitats to maintain and improve biodiversity and ecosystems whilst covering as small an area as necessary.’