Ian’s fine slide show on the wide screen of the Centenary Centre with photographs and video taken from his boat, Pegasus, was so realistic that, even two days later, people told me they were feeling sea-sick!
Ian’s trips from Peel Harbour, concentrate on the coastline immediately north and south. Craftily, a second boat can head off in the opposite direction, shark, dolphin and whale spotting.
The images above and under water were amongst the best I’ve seen. Having worked as a skipper for the original Basking Shark Watch with Ken Watterson and Pauline Oliver in the 1980s, Ian’s experience is probably unmatched.
Adults longer than a London Bus and with a greater mass than an elephant cannot fail to impress. The importance of keeping still and letting these huge but harmless plankton feeders come to you was emphasised. They have a natural curiosity but are no threat, although people in kayaks and small boats feel vulnerable seeing the animal under and either side of them. Indeed, one of my own daughters had a dorsal fin brush against her kayak!
A highlight was a video clip, taken by John Galpin, of a Basking Shark broaching (leaping clear of the water), all seven tons of it. This is one of only two know, filmed examples. Less happily, we saw pictures of two dead animals. One was hoisted on a crane in the harbour, taller than a lamp post. The other had been washed up in a cove. We could see detail in its mouth, including a line of teeth.
Research has shown that the reason the west coast of the Island is such a popular area for sharks is that the plankton bloom heading up with warmer waters from the south is diverted by the volume of water coming down the Mersey.
Great clouds of jellyfish are sometimes seen. The occasional sunfish may be seen feeding on these and more rarely, leather backed turtle. Ian reeled off the animals to expect, including dolphins, fin, orca, minki whales and seals. We saw a picture of a six-foot long tope, weighing 60 – 70 ponds. These are returned, once caught and recorded.
Birds to be seen include sandwich terns, gannets, shags, cormorant, guillemot, razor bills, puffins, gulls. We are so fortunate to live in this wild life haven. I wonder what they think of us! The emphasis, throughout, was how we must protect these fellow residents on the planet. Sea trips and shows, such as this are so important in keeping us all aware of this fragile, fascinating natural heritage.
Following refreshments, the AGM was soon romped through. The new committee was elected and will meet on the 27th March. Then, I’ll be able to publish the officers for the year and the programme card will be sent to all members.
Note the next meeting, carefully. It’s Wednesday, 21st March, 7.30, Centenary Centre. Roy Moore, Manx Radio’s TT Voice, will speak of his host of memories.