Feb 102017

With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

Record numbers of three dolphin species off Scotland’s west coast were recorded by conservation charity Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust in its marine research expeditions in 2016. 
From the trust’s specialized research yacht Silurian, volunteers and scientists recorded 2,303 individual common dolphins, 42 bottlenose dolphins and 94 Risso’s dolphins – the figures for all three species being the highest ever recorded in its annual survey seasons.

Average annual figures documented over the previous 14 years were 463 individual common dolphins, 14 bottlenose dolphins and 12 Risso’s dolphins. 

For common dolphins, these records range from 0 individuals encountered in a couple of the earlier field seasons to 1,862 during the 2007 season. 

Dr. Lauren Hartny-Mills, Science Officer of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said:

“The reasons for the high number of sightings of these charismatic dolphin species – and the broader effects on the marine environment and other species – remain unclear. But the intriguing findings highlight the importance of on-going monitoring and research – to strengthen our understanding of what is taking place in Hebridean waters, and to ensure well-informed conservation action.”

The latest findings were made in a research season lasting from May to October 2016, as part of the trust’s unique long-term citizen science project monitoring whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – as well as basking sharks in the Hebrides.

These annual research surveys depend on paying volunteers, with 71 welcomed aboard in 2016 – working with marine scientists on visual surveys and acoustic monitoring with underwater microphones or hydrophones, and identifying individual cetaceans through photography.

The Isle of Mull-based organisation now holds data from more than 95,000km of survey effort. It aims to pass the 100,000km milestone during 2017, and it is currently recruiting volunteers to support this by working as citizen scientists onboard Silurian for periods of almost two weeks from April to September.

Alison Lomax, Director of Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, said: “The impressive range of species documented in our at-sea surveys last year is a powerful reminder that Scotland’s west coast ocean environment is home to remarkable marine life. Long-term scientific studies of this globally-important habitat and its inhabitants are crucial if we are to ensure a secure future for the Hebrides’ spectacular cetaceans.”

During 2016, Silurian – previously used in filming of the BBC’s The Blue Planet series – covered more than 5,000 nautical miles, compared to an average of almost 4,000 miles annually over the previous 14 years. Its crew documented more than 1,300 cetaceans and basking sharks, and recorded almost 700 hours of underwater detections of cetaceans using specialist listening equipment.

Notable highlights included a wonderful encounter with a humpback whale in the northern Minch – an hour was spent with the massive creature lunge feeding, tail slapping and swimming under Silurian, alongside a large group of common dolphins.

2016 also saw Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s first expeditions running out of Ullapool, allowing for surveys in the more northern and western parts of the charity’s study area.

Western Scotland’s seas are one of Europe’s most important cetacean habitats. With a long, complex coastline, strong ocean currents and a variety of habitats, the Hebrides is one of the UK’s most biologically productive areas. So far 24 of the world’s estimated 92 cetacean species have been recorded in the region – many being national and international conservation priority species.

Yet marine ecosystems are fragile, and cetaceans face increasing stress from human activities – including climate change, entanglement, pollution, underwater noise and habitat degradation.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust has been monitoring marine mega fauna in the Hebrides since 1994, and from Silurian since 2002. Its surveys are partly funded by a generous grant from Scottish Natural Heritage, which supports the training of future mammal scientists.

The charity is the only organisation collecting long-term data on such a large scale on Scotland’s west coast, and its volunteers and scientists have now recorded more than 12,000 cetaceans. A short film about surveys can be seen at https://youtu.be/M_3r-GKfh8o.

Participation costs for the forthcoming 2017 surveys cover boat expenses, accommodation, training, food and insurance, and support the trust’s research. For details of how to take part, contact volunteercoordinator@hwdt.org, call 01688 302620, or visit www.hwdt.org.


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Apr 292016

Peter_Anson__courtesy and copyright Andrew Paterson Scottish Highlander Photo ArchiveBy Duncan Harley

Born in Southsea and from a naval family, Peter Anson (1889 – 1975) took a keen interest in ships and seafaring from an early age.

Initially he sketched from photographs but at age nine, during a family holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay, Peter began drawing the Fifies’ and Zulu drifters beloved by his mother, a Scots born water-colourist. Peter attributed his status as a ‘Domiciled Scotsman’ to her strong maternal influence. She died when he was fourteen and from this point on, his naval officer father began to have more input.

On one memorable occasion Peter found himself, age 15 alongside his dad, on-board the cruiser HMS Argyll – sister ship to the ill fated Hampshire which went down off the Orkney’s in 1916 with Lord Kitchener, of ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’ fame, on board.

This was his first experience at sea in a warship and he writes that he did not enjoy “the terrific noise of guns firing” during a naval exercise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite this, he was by now smitten by seafaring and felt himself a hardened sailor following this experience.

Private tutoring followed and in his late teens Peter enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London’s Westminster. Even here however he found that he couldn’t resist maritime subjects. He obtained a sketching permit which allowed him to wander at will, sketchbook in hand, around London Docks. Wapping, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs became favourite haunts and Thames river traffic became his subjects.

By 1906 Peter was in touch with the Anglican Benedictine community on Caldey Island near Tenby and despite family pressure to follow an architectural career found himself drawn to the monastic life.

In 1910, he tested his vocation as a monk. Following an initial two weeks on Caldey Island he decided, at age 20, to join the Community. Many years later he writes:

“I might be giving up the world, but this would not involve abandoning the sea … I don’t think that I could have faced the latter sacrifice! It would have been too much to ask!”

For the next decade, Caldey Island became his home.

Six miles in circumference and less than a mile long, the island had been home to monks from early Celtic times. In 1906 it was purchased by a Yorkshire based community of Anglican Benedictine’s.

It is a place of jagged coastal rocks, Atlantic storms and red sandstone cliffs and it was here that Peter became firm friends with Aelred Caryle, his monastic Superior, who helped him realise the Apostolate of the Sea – a mission to attend to the moral and spiritual needs of those who go to sea in ships.

An article on the subject penned by Peter appeared in The Catholic newspaper ‘Universe’ and soon letters began to arrive from all parts of the world endorsing his view that the spiritual welfare of seafarers in general went largely uncared for. One correspondent commented that:

“the mercantile marine have no chaplains and the priests in seaport towns are too overburdened with work already to give ships much individual attention”.

Macduff_1958_image_courtesy_Moray Museums Service

The Catholic Times soon took up the issue and in 1920 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published a condensed Italian translation of Peter’s article. Peter had by then, as always, moved on to fresh projects. In what he later realised was an attempt to escape from monastic life and a return to the maritime world, Peter asked permission from the Abbot of Caldey to make a survey tour of the seaports of the UK.

He made many sea journeys during this period and travelled from the Shetlands to the Scillies.

He sailed in dirty colliers and smoke stained steam trawlers and at one point spent so long in an Italian cargo vessel that he almost forgot how to speak English. In Buckie he found a fleet of over a hundred brightly painted steam drifters and wondered why no artist had ever painted the confused mass of funnels, rigging and masts.

In Aberdeen he observed:

“big dirty, untidy vessels which were a stark contrast to the tidy vessels of the Moray Firth.”

Everywhere he travelled he met clergy who had largely given up on ministering to ships and abandoned seafarers whose spiritual needs were left largely neglected.

The question of what could be done for Catholic seafarers had been the catalyst for the setting up of the Apostleship however when Peter moved to Portsoy and then to Macduff in the 1930’s it was soon apparent to him that the crews of the herring drifters were made up of men from various persuasions.

Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians; Brethren, Salvation Army and Catholics were all happy to discus both the state of the tide with him and debate the finer points of infant baptism or the mysticism surrounding the crucifixion.

The painting and the sketching carried on throughout this period, as it did indeed throughout his long life. The Apostleship of the Sea had become an international affair complete with annual congresses attracting delegates from up to 14 countries. By 1936 however, Peter had withdrawn from the official life of the organisation.

Gardenstown_Image_courtesy_Moray Museums ServiceIndeed he took great pleasure in the fact that on the occasion of the Congress’s meeting to honour his colleague Arthur Gannon’s 17 years of devoted work with the award of the ‘pro Pontifice et Ecclesia’ he was pointedly busy making a drawing of a Dutch motor cruiser in Banff harbour whilst chatting amiably with its crew.

Peter had in fact resigned his position as the Apostleship’s Organising Secretary in about 1924 due both to health concerns and the feeling that he had visualised the society much as he would visualize a drawing or a piece of writing.

Once the piece was completed, he simply wanted to get on with the next project.

Further sea journeys followed. Brittany, Vancouver and a much needed pilgrimage to Assisi were just some. In 1938 he published The Caravan Pilgrimage, an account of his year long ‘Pilgrim Artist’ journey by horse drawn caravan from Datchet by the Thames around Scotland’s North East coastline and back.

For many years Peter had been contributing a weekly series of drawings to the Catholic newspaper, The Universe featuring Roman Catholic churches around Britain. This work involved constant travelling by train; he hated road travel, which he found exhausting. One day he simply decided to divest himself of his copies of both Bradshaw and the ABC Railway Guide and purchased a horse drawn caravan.

Since he knew little about horses his next move was to advertise for a travelling companion who did. Out of almost 200 applications he chose a young Yorkshire-man by the name of Anthony Rowe who, alongside a lifetimes experience amongst horses, was a qualified farrier.

Along with horses, Jack and Bill, the pair set off on a year long journey around Britain, sketching churches and meeting folk along the way. Both Anthony and Peter recorded the journey and both published journals of the trip. Around 60 of Anson’s illustrations of the pilgrimage appear in the book of the tour including sketches of St Peter’s in Buckie, St Mary’s in Portsoy and St Thomas’s in Keith.

Along the way, Jack and Bill enjoyed the privilege of overnight grazing in, amongst many unusual locations, the grounds of Huntly Castle and Buckie FC’s football park.

Harbour Head Macduff:
In 1936 Peter moved back to Scotland. He had lately been living in Norfolk but had become weary of what he called:

“the Church of England in it’s most traditional and un-exciting manifestations.”

He had an intimate knowledge of Scottish ports having previously visited most of the forty or so parishes, including the Orkney’s and Shetlands which then made up the diocese of Aberdeen and knew many of the 50 or so secular priests who served up what he termed:

“an undemonstrative type of Catholicism.”

Ferryden 1966 image courtesy Moray Museums Service

The Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline became his home for the next two decades. Ecclesiastical affairs drifted into the background and fishing communities became his focus and his life.

The likes of Neil and Daisy Gunn, Compton McKenzie and Eric Linklater became firm friends.

Indeed both Neil and Sir Compton were to contribute forewords to his books. Compton had reviewed Peter’s writing for the Daily Mail commenting that:

“Mr Ansons books are prized possessions on my bookshelves.”

It has even been suggested that Neil’s Silver Darlings might not have reached publication if Peter had not encouraged the man to publish and be damned.

Peter wrote at the time that:

“In Scotland … so far as I could discover I was the only Papist earning a living by literary and artistic work in the vast diocese of Aberdeen.”

Soon after moving into Macduff ‘s Harbour Head the local parish priest designated Peter’s house as an Apostleship of the Sea ‘Service Centre’.  As a consequence a constant stream of mariners of all faiths and nationalities found their way to his door and in wartime, service folk on leave from the armed forces frequented his open house.

He had begun the Apostleship many years before with the vision of creating a worldwide organisation. At Harbour Head, Peter soon adopted the view that perhaps men rather than administrative machinery were required; Apostles were more needed than an Apostolate.

During this period he wrote and sketched at a furious pace adopting the practice of making at least one drawing before breakfast. He had spent six months in an earth floored fisherman’s cottage in Portsoy prior to moving to Harbour Head during which time he completed The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland. During his years in Macduff his writing included classics such as A Roving Recluse, Life on Low Shore and the best-selling classic British Sea Fishermen.

At the behest of the Scottish Nationalist Party and with a foreword by writer Neil Gunn he penned a vitriolic political pamphlet ‘The Sea Fisheries of Scotland are they Doomed’ which examined in some detail the causes for the decline in the fortunes of the inshore fishing industry in the 1930’s.

Books as diverse in nature as How to Draw Ships and the 1956 Official Guide to Banff followed and are part of his legacy alongside possibly his final work Building Up the Waste Places in which he explores the life and work of Aelred Caryle and Fr. Hopkins, each of whom played key roles in the restoration of Benedictine Monastic life in the post Reformation church.

Perer_Anson_Memorial_Sculpture courtesy Duncan HarleyA founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists Anson published over 40 books, and contributed to many more. His artistic output numbers literally thousands of drawings and watercolours and many of his books are prolifically illustrated with harbour scenes and pier head paintings.

In 1958 Peter left Macduff and moved to a cottage near Ramsgate Abbey. A further brief stay in Portsoy followed in 1960 and in 1961 he moved to Montrose.

Made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in recognition of his scholarly work he became, in 1967, the first Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

His later years were spent back at Caldey Island and finally at Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian.

He died in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh in July 1975 and is buried in the private cemetery at Nunraw Abbey.

Aspects of Peter’s life remain unclear and some personal diaries and correspondence remain unavailable to historians until 2040. He was seemingly barred from attending a friend’s funeral at Doune Kirkyard in Macduff, shuddered at the loss, but in time recovered and moved on.

Moray Council Museum Service hold a substantial collection of Peter Anson’s work some of which is on public display at the Falconer Museum in Forres. They also hold an archive of his letters and diaries plus his personal library. Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre and Buckie Library also hold Anson paintings.

Courtesy of Stanley Bruce, Macduff sports a sculpture in memory of Peter but perhaps the most fitting tribute to his life are in the words of an anonymous Buckie fisherman quoted on the flyleaf of the 1930 edition of the best selling classic: ‘Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland’.

“Peter’s the maist winnerfu’ mannie ah ever met, well kent in scores o’ ports, a man wi’ the sea in’s bleed, a skeely drawer o’ boats an’ haibers an’ fisher fowk, a vreeter o’ buiks, a capital sailor, an’ a chiel … He’s a byordinar mannie.”

© Duncan Harley

With thanks to the Moray Museum Service, the Andrew Paterson Scottish Highland Photo Archive and Aberdeenshire Library Service. First published in the November 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine

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Dec 032015

With thanks to Phil Moar, Account Manager, Citrus:Mix.

CLAN logo2A technology usually used to photographically capture and manage oil platforms and crime scenes has been put to use to help north-east charity CLAN Cancer Support.
Perhaps not an obvious fit, the SeaEnergy team’s vision was to use its R2S visual asset management system to photographically capture CLAN House into its software to provide the charity with the ability to visually demonstrate the facilities that its Aberdeen headquarters offers.

Claire Fleming, SeaEnergy’s Corporate Communications & Research Manager, commented:

“There is no denying that it is a tricky time across our industry, but we wanted to look for some positives. We needed to find a project to help the continued professional development of our team, keeping them engaged and challenged while the demand for deployment was not high.

“We decided that one positive way we could embrace this challenge was to do something in support of a local charity and part of a corporate social responsibility initiative.

“CLAN is very local to our Rosemount offices where our R2S photographers are based. Like many others in the city, I was aware of the work CLAN did but regularly drove past CLAN House without a real understanding of what went on inside.

“It took no time for the team at CLAN to see the application as we did, but also how it would benefit them in other ways too.”

Dr Colette Backwell, CLAN’s Chief Executive, said:

“Sea Energy’s innovative approach to CSR during the current economic downturn is to be applauded and highlights its continued commitment to local charities.

“CLAN and our clients will benefit greatly from the virtual tour which will go on our website after our Christmas Cracker event this week. It will allow people with cancer, their families and carers to see what we have to offer and perhaps help them to make that first visit to access our wide range of wellbeing services and emotional support.

“The virtual tour also has an important role to play in allowing a number of people affected by cancer from across north-east Scotland, Orkney and Shetland to gain an insight into our facilities before making the journey to Aberdeen for treatment. We place a great emphasis on the comfort of our clients and anything that can make their time away from home that little easier is always greatly welcomed.”

Claire Fleming added:

“I know that many companies are facing operational and business challenges but finding ways to help in terms of donating time and skills can make a real difference – offering benefits to both the donor and recipient. All of us involved with the project have taken away a lot more than a greater understanding of CLAN as a charity; it has been a real privilege to be involved.”

The R2S capture of CLAN House was shown publically for the first time on Friday, November 27, at CLAN’s annual Christmas Cracker event.

About SeaEnergy PLC:

SeaEnergy PLC is an innovation-led offshore energy services business, based in Aberdeen, Scotland and listed on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM Market.

R2S Visual Asset Management system (delivered by SeaEnergy subsidiary Return To Scene) provides photographic capture and three dimensional modelling of oil & gas installations, linking these images to asset management databases for major international oil operators, allowing them to improve the performance of their assets whilst providing operational efficiencies.

R2S Forensic is an interactive software system that enhances planning, investigation and collaboration through the power of visual imagery. The R2S Forensic system has revolutionised the presentation of crime scenes. It creates an information rich walk through environment which seamlessly links all relevant technical data.

Return To Scene was acquired by SeaEnergy in August 2012.

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Sep 072015

Oil Strike cover By Mike Shepherd.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of first oil from the Forties field in September 1975.

A quick search of the internet and you will find photographs of the Queen inaugurating the Forties field on the 3rd November 1975. But don’t tell her majesty, the Forties field was already in operation by that time.

It wasn’t quite the first oil on stream from the UK side; the Argyll field had been producing since June that year, but given the scale of the Forties development, it was a major event.

The Forties field figures prominently in my new book Oil Strike North Sea which is out next week.

In terms of reserves it is the largest field in the UK North Sea and deserves attention for that alone; but not only that, I was to take a prominent role in its development and this allows me to give a first-hand account of what it takes to operate a North Sea field.

Between 1981 and 1986, I was responsible from the geology side in planning a large number of wells in the oil field. I worked both onshore and offshore. After planning the wells in British Petroleum’s (BP) office in Dyce, working closely with the drilling engineers, I would then go offshore to monitor the reservoir section. Amongst other responsibilities, I would tell the drillers when to stop once we were below the oil pay.

The Forties field wasn’t the first commercial oil field discovered on the UK side, that honour goes to Amoco’s Montrose field which was discovered in 1969. When Amoco discovered oil in the first well, the offshore personnel were astonished. They were looking for gas and had no idea that there was oil in the North Sea. Other companies had come across oil shows in wells before, but had kept this highly secret.

There were no sample jars for oil on the rig, so the first sample of commercial oil in the North Sea was brought onshore in a pickle jar that had been grabbed from the rig’s galley.

Amoco had hired the Sea Quest drilling rig from BP to drill the well and handed it back afterwards. The BP geologists were rather surprised to find that a copy of a log showing that oil had been found had arrived with the rig. It had been accidently left on board.

BP had identified the Forties prospect on their seismic data, a massive dome covering 90 square kilometres. It looked enormous and the unintended gift from Amoco gave them comfort that there could be an oil field there.

Yet the BP management had been most reluctant to drill the prospect and for good reasons too; the oil price had been low since 1950 as a result of the large-scale production from the Middle East and North Africa, and a large offshore field requiring very expensive infrastructure could not be assured to make a profit. On top of that, the engineering capability of providing the infrastructure was an unknown, the oil companies had never ventured into such deep and stormy waters.

One of the reasons BP drilled the discovery well was out of desperation. BP had been thrown out of several countries after the oil had been nationalised and the future of the company was somewhat uncertain at the time. It was only with the Yom Kippur war in 1973, when the oil price quadrupled on the back of OPEC sanctions, was it likely that the North Sea would be a profitable concern.

The Forties field is still producing after forty years, with over 2.7 billion barrels of oil recovered. The current operator Apache is still actively chasing the remaining oil in the field by drilling new wells. The Forties field, like many other fields in the North Sea had not been expected to have produced for as long as they have. It’s a testament to the amazing skills developed in the North Sea that our fields have recovered so much oil.

The book launch for Oil Strike North Sea is at Waterstones in Union Street on Wednesday 9th September at 7pm, all are welcome.

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Mar 132015

cruel sea cover feat

By David Innes.

The recent Pentland Firth tragedy in which the Cemfjord was lost with all hands, demonstrates that no matter how sailing and marine technology improves, the treacherous Scottish coastline and our frequently-inhospitable weather refuse to be tamed.

45 years have elapsed since the twin tragic losses of lifeboats from Fraserburgh and Longhope and whilst technology and training have improved, there remains considerable scope for losses at sea.

In a clockwise circumnavigation of this coastline in Scotland’s Cruel Sea, Robert Jeffrey charts how along its entirety, marine disaster has befallen the unwary, the unprepared and the unlucky.

He recognises the bravery of those who have fought elements, waves, currents, rocks and fortune, be they mariners or rescuers.

He also tells of the frequent crass stupidity which saw seafarers ill-prepared for almost certain death – a steam-driven submarine with folding tunnels and multiple vents? You don’t need to make that up – it happened and is well-documented here.

Likewise, his exacting prose describes clearly how the Iolaire sank just outside Stornoway harbour on New Year’s Day 1919, with over 200 men, who had survived the brutality of The Great War, lost within sight of their homes, a tragedy that is still mourned in the Hebrides.

The Longhope lifeboat TGB, from which all crew were lost exactly 45 years ago on a mercy mission doomed to failure, was recovered intact, re-fitted and went on to serve for another ten years and 41 call-outs in Ireland. Who knew that?

He describes the June 1916 loss of the Hampshire as a harrowing experience for Britain, as Lord Kitchener was the most high-profile loss on Orkney’s west coast, in an ill-considered venture into a raging summer storm. The effect of Kitchener’s death, and the conspiracy theories it spawned, Jeffrey says, would be akin to the more contemporary deaths of John F Kennedy or Princess Diana.

Of most interest to Voice readers, of course, will be the marine losses affecting NE Scotland, including Piper Alpha which caused “collective shock” not only in the oil industry, but in the country and where the bereaved and survivors found it, “as difficult to extract fairness from the multinationals as it was to get the oil and gas to the surface”.

Linked to North Sea exploration, is the insightful chapter on Chinook and Super Puma ditchings and near misses along with a tribute to pilot skills which, Jeffrey points out, have prevented many more losses in extreme conditions.

The Tay Bridge collapse of Hogmanay 1879 also gets its own chapter and Jeffrey’s frustration is obvious as he tells of the forewarnings of structural instability, inappropriate train speeds and the fears of an ex-Provost of Dundee who would only travel southbound on the ill-fated structure. It’s a surprise to learn that the final death toll has never been enumerated and that the locomotive was recovered from the Tay and put back into service.

Scotland’s Cruel Sea is informative, sympathetic, cautionary and written so that non-technical readers can appreciate the issues behind the human suffering associated with our being an island race.

Scotland’s Cruel Sea by Robert Jeffrey.

Black & White Publishing
ISBN 978 I 84502 886 2

Feb 272015

Scottish Traditional Boat Festival featWith thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Aberdeen Asset Management (Aberdeen) has stepped back on board as sponsors of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival which takes place in Portsoy annually and is worth in excess of £1 million to the local economy.

Last year’s event festival attracted more than 18,000 people, with a significant growth in the number of visitors attending from outwith the region and just under 12% of visitors attending from overseas.

Aberdeen Asset Management’s four year sponsorship deal of the festival came to an end in 2014, but with the flagship event finding it difficult to find a successor, Aberdeen have thrown organisers a lifeline and agreed to back this year’s event, and to provide further funding in 2016.

Festival chairman Roger Goodyear has welcomed Aberdeen Asset Management’s intervention, saying it protects the continuation of the popular event in the short term, while buying more time for organisers to secure an alternative main sponsor for future years.

Roger says:

“We are delighted that Aberdeen Asset Management has generously agreed to back us with this extra support. It comes at a time when we are involved in a number of additional projects that are taking up a considerable amount of time and attention but will bring significant community benefit, including the creation of a boatshed, the building of a traditional salmon coble and, in association with the North East Preservation Trust, the restoration of a listed building to create a bunkhouse.

“Aberdeen has been a generous supporter of the festival since 2011 and that has meant that it is an extremely hard act to follow, but we are pleased to have this safety net in place as we seek other sponsors for future festivals.”

Martin Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management and a keen sailor, says of the sponsorship award:

“The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival is a key highlight of the tourism calendar and, as well as being the largest gathering of traditional boats in Scotland it has an excellent range of on shore activities for all ages.

“When we became aware that the festival was finding it a challenge to secure a main sponsor, we wanted to show support that will help safeguard this vibrant community-run event which attracts a high level of tourists to the area every summer, as it continues to seek a long term sponsorship supporter.”

Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond, a frequent visitor to the festival in Portsoy on the Banffshire Coast also welcomed the sponsorship announcement.

 “The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival is one of the most popular events in Scotland’s tourism calendar and I am absolutely delighted that Aberdeen Asset Management are back on-board for another two years.

“Portsoy welcomes thousands of visitors during the festival each year and during the Year of Food and Drink 2015 there are even more opportunities to promote and celebrate our award-wining local producers.”

The 22nd annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival takes place on 4 and 5 July 2015 and promotes maritime links and heritage, as well as maritime crafts, food, music, traditions and local sports.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]


May 092014

With the United Kingdom’s only known resident population of killer whales at risk of imminent extinction, securing new information about this endangered group is one of the ambitions of a new season of marine research expeditions being launched by Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) this week.


The Silurian – Credit G. Leaper

In its 20th anniversary year, HWDT is recruiting volunteers to work alongside marine scientists in surveys running from May to October, to gather crucial data on whales, dolphins and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – and basking sharks in western Scotland’s seas.

The new expeditions form part of the only offshore, long-term cetacean monitoring scheme of its type in the UK and will be carried out from HWDT’s specialised research yacht Silurian, previously used in the filming of the BBC’s acclaimed series, The Blue Planet.

Eva Varga, HWDT Operations Manager said:

“Our 2014 surveys offer an excellent volunteering opportunity to help ensure the long-term survival of Scotland’s remarkable cetaceans and basking sharks, while learning new skills and exploring some of the most wild and remote corners of Britain,”

With cetaceans facing increasing stress from human activities such as climate change, entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, underwater noise and habitat degradation, the findings will strengthen knowledge of species’ distribution, habitats and behaviour, and will be used to strengthen future conservation action.

Volunteers will live and work on-board Silurian for up to 12 days, receiving training and working with scientists – conducting visual surveys, acoustic monitoring using hydrophones and specialist software, and identification of individual cetaceans through photography of their dorsal fins. They will also assist with the day-to-day running of Silurian.

Areas covered will depend on weather but will range between the Mull of Kintyre in the south, Cape Wrath in the north and St Kilda in the west. These seas are one of Europe’s most important habitats for cetaceans. The long and complex coastline, mixed ocean currents and wide variety of habitats make the Hebrides one of the most biologically productive areas in the UK.

HWDT research has revealed that Hebridean waters are home to what is thought to be the UK’s only resident group of killer whales – five males and four females known as the ‘West Coast Community’, whose conservation status is believed to be critical. The charity believes that the group is likely to become extinct in our lifetime, as no calves have yet been seen within the group for several years.

The charity’s findings also include the discovery that The Hebrides host what could be the UK’s smallest resident population of bottlenose dolphins and one of Europe’s highest densities of harbour porpoise.


The ‘West Coast Community’ of killer whales – at risk of extinction. Photo by N. Van Geel/HWDT.

Twenty-four species of whales, dolphins and porpoises – including several national and international conservation priorities – have now been recorded in the region.

HWDT is working to secure the future of western Scotland’s cetaceans and The Hebrides’ globally important marine environment by enhancing knowledge and understanding through education, research and engagement with local communities.

Its research data is used to inform policy makers and generate recommendations for effective marine management.

The charity – which is based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, where it has its main education and research offices and a visitor centre – believes that conservation of our marine environment can bring economic and social benefits to the whole region.

The 2014 surveys run from May to September and depart from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull or Kyle of Lochalsh. Participation costs cover boat expenses, support HWDT’s research programme and include accommodation, food and insurance onboard Silurian.

For details, contact Mark Whitaker at volunteercoordinator@hwdt.org or 01688 302620, or visit www.hwdt.org.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust,
28 Main Street,
Isle of Mull,
PA75 6NU

Tel: 01688 302620
Fax: 01688 302728

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Feb 072014

By Elizabeth Harley.

Elizabeth Harley moray dolphinThe Moray coast is a land of ever-changing light, rainbows, beautiful sunsets, clear bright stars and the aurora borealis. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with one of the most equitable climates to be found anywhere in Scotland and a paradise for lovers of wildlife, nature and the great outdoors, offering everything from kayaking to windsurfing, rock climbing to jet skiing, walking to wildlife spotting.

The Moray Firth boasts the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the UK, with numbers nudging over 200 with this year’s calves.

They are also the largest in the world, probably due to the colder conditions they inhabit. They are often to be seen close to shore, feeding, playing or travelling.

It is not uncommon to see 60-80 bottlenose dolphins making their way along the coast, with occasional sightings of huge pods of common dolphins a bit further off shore. The fortunate may also spot white-beaked and Risso’s dolphins, minke whales, orca, pilot whales and basking sharks.

Great viewing spots are the lookout at Covesea and the visitor centre at Burghead, which I renamed DHQ due to the likelihood of spotting dolphins from there. This year spotters counted 43 basking sharks in about two hours one summer evening, and just recently a porbeagle shark was sighted four miles off Hopeman.

The harbour at Lossie is also a good spotting place and when the sea conditions and tides are right, the dolphins can feed very close in.

Common and grey seals can be spotted all along the coast, especially at Findhorn, Burghead and around the Skerries at Lossiemouth.

Minke Elizabeth Harley

Other local wildlife includes deer, red squirrels, otters, osprey, puffins, king eider ducks and further inland, golden eagles.
Burghead is built on the largest Pictish fort in the UK. With some coastal rock formations 200 million years old, the past lives on in this ancient land, with its Pictish stones, the ancient ceremonial well at Burghead with echo chamber and the stunning quartzite rock formations and dinosaur footprints along the shore path to Hopeman.

The sharp-sighted may also be lucky enough to spot the odd mythical creature, as the Tappoch Hill at Roseisle used to be known as Dragon Hill…

Become involved:

If you enjoy wildlife spotting you can report your sightings

There’s a lot that we can do to protect our wildlife. Seal pups are born all year round – grey seals in winter and harbour or common seals in summer. If you see a seal pup on the shore, don’t assume there is a problem, as it is usual for the mother to leave the pup while feeding, and older pups will come onshore to rest.

However, sometimes the pup will be injured, abandoned, have an infection or be severely undernourished or dehydrated. It is not easy to identify this without experience, so please call 01825 765546 to notify the BDMLR (British Divers Marine Life Rescue,) who will send out a trained volunteer to report back and if necessary take the seal to the sanctuary in Hopeman, which was set up by BDMLR volunteers Boonie and Michelle; or to the SPCA rescue centre at Fishcross, in Fife.

Meanwhile, if possible, you could encourage people and dogs to keep away, as seals can give a very nasty bite and the last thing a weak seal needs is to be chased back into the water. Use the same number for any stranded cetaceans you come across.

If you are out on the water, there is a voluntary code of conduct for driving boats or especially jet skis around dolphins: http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/marine-code-of-conduct

Elizabeth Harley moray sealCare for the environment:

Every year whales die due to ingestion of plastic, which looks like squid when floating in the water.

This fills their stomachs and prevents real food from being absorbed, and therefore they die of malnutrition.

So every bit of plastic you pick up from our coastline is one less bit to end up in the stomach of a whale or turtle.

And finally, the only good way to see dolphins is in the wild.

The captive dolphin industry is responsible for the deaths of thousands of bottlenose dolphins every year. For each captive, seventeen more die in the dolphin drives, or as by-product, so if you love dolphins go and see them in their own environment – wild and free. For more information watch the film The Cove, or check out www.savejapandolphins.org

Elizabeth Harley can be contacted at elizabeth@reikitraining.org.uk  01343 209616

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Aug 302013

There has been a confirmed sighting of the West Coast Community of killer whales off Peterhead – the first time members of this small and highly unique population have been reported off Scotland’s east coast, reports the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust. 

Killer whale ‘John Coe’ previously pictured by N. Van Geel/HWDT.

Killer whale ‘John Coe’ previously pictured by N. Van Geel/HWDT.

Video footage of the sighting, filmed by Peterhead man Ian Nash on 20 August, clearly shows a male whale known as John Coe, identifiable by a very distinctive dorsal fin notch, with another male and at least one female.
Led by Sightings Officer Mark Hosford, the Trust has established a wide-ranging sightings network and in cooperation with residents and seafarers continues to map the distribution of cetaceans off Scotland’s west coast.

The Trust has been monitoring this group’s movements since the early 1990s, with sightings recorded mainly in the Hebrides, Ireland and Wales.

Following this week’s Peterhead sighting, the charity can now expand significantly the known range of these apex predators.

Mark Hosford said:

This confirmed sighting is a really exciting development. The West Coast Community is thought to be the only resident population of orca in the British Isles, and understanding their behaviour and movements is crucial to the conservation of these remarkable creatures

John Coe’s distinctive notch allowed Sanna Kuningas of the Sea Mammal Research Unit to recognise him as part of the West Coast Community and  to alert HWDT and Dr Andy Foote, who has extensively studied orca populations in the NE Atlantic as part of the North Atlantic Killer Whale ID (NAKID) project.   www.northatlantickillerwhales.com

The West Coast Community’s  entire population comprises just five males and four females, and no calves have ever been recorded in two decades of HWDT monitoring.

Dr Foote’s research confirmed that members of the West Coast Community never interact with other NE Atlantic populations, and are actually morphologically different from the area’s other populations in eye patch orientation. It is suspected that this small population preys exclusively on other cetaceans including porpoise and minke whale. All these variables point to a distinct, highly vulnerable killer whale population.

HWDT relies on members of the public to report sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoise and basking sharks to enable a better understanding of the marine environment, both locally and internationally.

Mark Hosford added:

The West Coast Community of orca has a range which includes a large portion of the western coast of the British Isles. This, together with the small number of individuals within the group, means that sightings of the West Coast Community can be few and far between.

The HWDT research vessel Silurian has a large area to cover and can only be in one place at a time, so having a community-based sightings network allows HWDT to gather much more information on the orca than we could on our own.”

Members of the public who encounter a cetacean or basking shark, can contribute to HWDT’s community sightings network by reporting sightings at sightings@hwdt.org

HWDT is dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of Scotland’s whales, dolphins and porpoises and the Hebridean marine environment through education, research and working with local communities as a basis for the lasting conservation of species and habitats.

Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust,
28 Main Street,
Isle of Mull,
PA75 6NU

Tel: 01688 302620
Fax: 01688 302728


Nov 302012

By Bob Smith.

A committee made up o MSPs
Hiv said winfairms hinna indeed
Geen an connacht the tourism
Aawye north o the River Tweed
Thon “World Expert in Tourism”
A mannie bi the name o Trump
Is said tae be spittin mad
Nae doot he’ll tak the hump
His he noo lost the battle?
Ower the turbines tae be built
Lit’s hope he ups an waaks awa
Wi a claymore stuck “up his kilt”
Nae been a gweed time fer Donald
Things  hinna lately geen his wye
Barack Obama still is the President
So at near aabody Trump lit fly
He tweeted fowk he thocht wid listen
“Mairch on Washington”wis his yammer
Some fowk thocht iss wis fair revoltin
Wintin Donald thrown in the “slammer”

An American chiel named Carusone
His petitioned yon American store
Tae dump aa Trump’s brand goods
Askin Macy’s  tae show him the door
Ower half a million hiv already signed
Some are boycottin Macy’s stores
Wull the COE hae tae buckle
If fowk picket ootside the doors
The Donald nae lang syne
Thocht Chinese goods war crap
Orders tae mak his “signature “brand
Hiv noo landit in China’s lap
Nae doot he’ll mak a muckle profit
If lower wages are pyed in China
An sells his “Trump” suits an ties
Fae New York tae Sooth Carolina
Faar dis iss leave The Donald
Fin here an America fur dis fly
Wull the chiel jist pack his bags
An tae Trump we can say bye bye 

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012