Archive for July, 2013

Marine Wildlife Festival

The Marine Wildlife Festival is running from the 19th to the 26th July at the Great North Museum Hancock.

I volunteered to help with some of the preparations and taking visitors around the life size inflatable animals on the first day of the festival. The temporary exhibition hall was filled with these handmade inflatables which included a juvenile blue whale, a sperm whale, several species of dolphin, sharks, turtles and seals. My favourite was the basking shark as I am enchanted by these enigmatic gentle giants.

Most of us will never get to meet a whale eye to eye to appreciate the sheer size and majesty of these creatures so seeing these detailed life size inflatables is a powerful experience.

Along with the inflatables, there are craft activities, face painting, talks and simulations of whale rescues on the lawn. There are items from the museums natural history collection in cases amongst the inflatables including a very impressive walrus skull. I really enjoyed the handling collection particularly the sperm whale teeth, they are so heavy!

I was there to tell the visitors a little about the animals, but I enjoyed listening to their stories too. I learned that basking sharks have been seen hanging out near Blyth power station, the delights of watching Humpback whales off the coast of New England and heard about many encounters with seals on the Farne Islands.

I learned a lot about the different whales and dolphins that live off the North East coast from Alison Lomax who works for ORCA. I have been lucky enough to see dolphins, porpoises and seals in their natural environment but I have never seen a whale. Alison was trying to entice me to volunteer on their whale watching surveys to fulfil this long held ambition.

She was not the only one looking for more volunteers, The British Divers Marine Animal Rescue were trying to persuade me that I would like to learn how to rescue seals that have got into difficulties along the North East Coast.