'Into the Blue' with Alison Lomax

 Watching the Clansman ferry approaching during passage through Gunna Sound

Watching the Clansman ferry approaching during passage through Gunna Sound

The 'Blue Planet II: Into the Blue' extra has given us a fascinating insight into the efforts it takes to realise the wonderful footage we see on our screens each episode. 

Like the Blue Planet series, it takes a huge amount of preparation, effort and dedication from our team to deliver our Cetacean Research Programme aboard our research vessel, Silurian.  Over the coming weeks, members of the team will share their own ‘Into the Blue’ moments, highlighting some of their most memorable times aboard Silurian

This week, Alison Lomax, our Director, shares one of her treasured moments…

Waking up on board Silurian in a remote anchorage, with the anticipation of a long passage, not knowing what we will encounter is truly thrilling. On a homeward journey the feeling is somehow amplified, that “last chance to see” sense adding extra anticipation and expectation perhaps? All of those feelings combined with an extraordinary set of circumstances made for a very memorable experience during my last HWDT survey expedition.

Travelling across the Sea of the Hebrides from Castle Bay, Silurian approached the entrance to the famous Gunna Sound. A narrow tidal passage separating the islands of Coll and Tiree, and a hotspot for large numbers of feeding basking sharks!

We were expecting a bumpy ride. With the tide flowing in one direction and the wind howling in the other, the sea was in a battle and we were in the middle. We clipped on, hung on, and kept watch for basking sharks as we picked our way through the waves.

All of a sudden, on the bow between the waves a huge basking shark breaks the surface. Silurian tips to one side as we turn the boat to give the shark some room, we all hold on. All I can hear are shrieks of excitement in the wind! We are nearing the entrance to the Sound when we are joined by the CalMac Clansman. CalMac ferries are not an unusual sight in our survey area but I have never seen one so close. Silurian is dwarfed by the vessel, which brings in its wake even more waves to contend with!

We appear out the other side of the Sound and it feels like a different world. It is quiet and calm, even the light is different. We are now sheltered from the elements by the landmass of Coll. It almost feels like the noise and excitement of the last 30 minutes didn’t happen at all.

Feel inspired by Blue Planet II and want to get involved with marine conservation efforts?  Why not join us on board Silurian in 2018; experiencing magnificent wildlife sightings, exploring spectacular Hebridean landscapes and making valuable contributions to our scientific research.