Coll of the Sharks Festival 2013
Phew, it's taken a wee while to get this blog up but what a fantastic Coll of the Sharks Festival 2013 we had!
It all started on Thursday, a few bright eyed and bushy tailed sharkers arrived at Oban, eager to get out there. With a good forecast and sun predicted, along with sharks over the past few days it was great to de-stress a little knowing everything was coming together.
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Clear Water & White Sand Beaches[/caption]
First stop, Tobermory of course, hit up the Island Bakery as usual for some tasty cakes and off we went in search of the big fish. With a few inexperienced folks and some super keen to see the seals we headed off to our favourite snorkelling spot. 15-20m viz as per usual, seals everywhere, abundant reefs and sunshine. What more could you want!
Well, as soon as we left our snorkel spot=, on our way to pick folks up at Arinagour, we heard on the radio that an Orca (Killer Whale) had been spotted where we just were! With people to meet, we had to keep to schedule (grudgingly!) so off we speeded to find our passengers and get back out there!
After excitedly explaining to our new visitors we had heard about the orca on the radio and that all haste should be made to get back to the last known area, we all boarded the boat off in search of the Orca. Basking sharks can be tricky to find but we knew where some were - a little bit of a predicament of what to do. In the end we opted to search for Orca - you can imagine what happened next. Orca had disappeared in true Orca style! However we did have a decent size Minke Whale surface for a couple of cycles so all was not lost!
Heading off to find the sharks and we weren't disappointed soon after coming across 4 or 5 individuals! The only problem being the time, as we diverted to look for pesky Orcas our time was running short. Everyone managed to get a good look at the sharks and we managed to get everyone in at least once. All haste on the way back and we got back into Arinagour just in the nick of time. Unfortunately, despite an overall good forecast for the festival the next day wasn't so good, so with everyone settled into their accommodation it was off to check weather forecasts and make plans!
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Basking Shark 'Basking'![/caption]
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Sharks in Rough Water[/caption]
Next morning the weather was pretty poor with strong SE winds. The film crew were out with us too - so no pressure then! We let everyone have a bit of a lie in as the wind was forecast to drop during the day and we managed to find a groups of 5 or 6 sharks feeding. Unfortunately a few of the crew were a bit green and conditions too rough to swim for now. At least we had sharks! Heading off to shelter around Mull, we still didn't have much joy so off to Tobermory, checking out the eagles and seals on the way. Grabbing a coffee and visiting the 'posh' toilets gave everyone a bit of a break. After a few tales being told between the group we were ready to look again, with the wind dropped even more. We were spurred on by reports of sharks to the south so we all donned wetsuits ready for some action!
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BBC Filming the Sharks[/caption]
Despite the wind dropping there was still a healthy swell and as the sun set we didn't have any more luck finding sharks in calm conditions. We stayed out till sunset by the time the wind dropped it was too late to head off to where we knew they were! It was a nice sunset to end the day, but not quite as successful as our first day of the festival! Better forecast for tmrw!
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Two sharks in same shot!![/caption]
A lovely morning and flat calm seas made excellent conditions, especially for our BBC cameraman's last opportunity (Lunch time ferry!) It wasn't long when we found some sharks in our favourite spot! Everyone was super excited onboard and the film crew got some amazing shots, along with presenter Sarah Mack having a great time!!!
A quick change over at lunch (and the cameraman made the ferry) and we were out again for another trip. This time seeing two or three Minke Whales and even breaching sharks! Fantastic! Everyone had great swims and the weather stayed nice and calm. On the way in we spotted a sunfish on the surface which truly rounded off a magical day in the Hebrides - unfortunately nobody got pictures of the sunfish and by the time I'd got in the water it had disappeared!! Honestly!!! The great thing was everybody was really amped and set the mood up perfectly for our evening presentation night.
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An Cridhe Community Centre[/caption]
Being held at the An Cridhe community centre, we had arranged an evening of four presenters and by 5pm the crowds were already starting to turn up. By the the time we were getting ready to go we had filled the hall to capacity and then some, a complete success and we had people for all over the isles, mainland and overseas! Thanks go to Stray Seal for the great event photography which you can see in the slideshow below of the evening.
A fantastic night and all 4 four presentations were well received. A mixture of current issues with Robert Trythall talking about the proposals for the Tiree Array and potential effects on sharks, Lilian Lieber and Mauvis Gore with interesting shark facts and details about their basking shark research. Then finishing off with fantastic footage from BBC cameraman Doug Anderson.
A few celebratory beverages at the bar and after the pace of the last few days, none of us had any trouble getting to sleep!
A wee bit weary after last night, but elated nonetheless. We rose to another perfect morning and we knew today would be another good day!
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Big shark passes the boat![/caption]
An interesting phenomenon had happened and with the wind patterns, large concentrations of plankton were evident and some HUGEEEE sharks had sniffed them out. We found a bay with around 10 sharks gorging themselves in plankton soup! The weather was calm so were kept the boat well away from the bay and swam in to where they were feeding. Everybody got amazing experiences of the sharks and memory cards were full to bursting of shark piccies.
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See the size of the dorsal![/caption]
With the concentration of plankton we also noticed concentrations of Pelagia noctiluca
or Mauve Stingers. They do have a bit of a sting but with bright blue and purple they are a stunning creature of the ocean. Being the first time I've seen them around Scotland (usually more in the sub-tropics) it was an interesting side effect of the plankton concentration. Some people mentioned that I was more interested in the Jellyfish than the sharks!!!
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Pelagia noctiluca Jellyfish[/caption]
After another excellent day of sharks, diving was also on the cards for sunday night. Although we lost a few from suffering the effects of some really quality sharking, and last nights festivities there was still some super keen folk (e.g. Grant, Heather, Kelda and Lyndsay). Thanks to Ruaridh for helping out with the van we got all the gear down and Cam rowed over with the dingy to make sure no-one was off where they shouldn't be. Lovely viz again and covered in life! Always love to see peoples reaction from never diving in Scotland and seeing the amazing life and colours we have, even if it was a little cloudy on the surface by now!
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Dive on the Calmac Pier[/caption]
Our last morning before heading back to Oban and a little more wind this morning but still plenty of sharks around. We had about 5 or 6 sharks in a small area but again some fantastic encounters!
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Basking Shark Swims Past Feeding[/caption]
Returning around lunchtime we grabbed some sandwiches from the cafe, packed up our gear and people for the return fast ferry to Oban (to turn round and do it all again tmrw!). The Coll of the Sharks Festival 2013 had been a great success!
We can't wait for next year again, we'll have more events and are working on a few more surprises! See you there! For more info see the Coll of the Sharks page
. See the video below of the ONE Show report on the festival.