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August 11, 2012

The summer romps on, the hostel is busy and the sun continues to shine. The Black Boat (now green…) is in the water and moored off the village and I get out for a row most days. Being on the water is wonderful. It gives a breathing space and critical distance that I simply don’t find on the land. Up mountains, maybe ?  It’s cheaper than a psychotherapist and you get fit too !

The sea life at present is fantastic and there must be hundreds of basking sharks around. The numbers are such that the Staffa boats have to be very careful and keep a sharp eye so as not to hit them. I don’t know the reason why there are so many but presumably it’s a cyclical thing and the feeding is good. A couple of years ago they all seemed to be down around Cornwall and there were few here. I guess we’ll wake up one day before too long and they’ll have vanished -until the next time. In the meantime, it is magnificent. I was rowing in the sound a couple of days ago, surrounded by five of them, but had of course forgotten my camera. There have been three or four feeding off the hostel for the last week (easily seen from the shore) so last night I decided to row around to off the hostel and see if they were still there.

It was a perfect night -flat calm with a still hot sun sinking over Coll. It’s a neap tide, so the flood helped me up and round the top of Iona without causing too much hindrance on the return journey to the village.

Lagandorain and the hostel (tucked low to the right) in the background.

They are extraordinary creatures: up to around 11 metres long, 6 – 7 tons and living possibly over 50 years and able to filter through their mouth the equivalent of a 50 m Olymic pool, per hour. Dolphins and porpoises are a delightful circus act but have been so anthropom0rphised and cutified that you barely can tell what you are looking at. Sad really : something of their innate uniqueness and mystery has been lost by overexposure to our own needs and fancy. But basking sharks, now they are something very different ! They don’t leap and play, look cuddly or in any way lend themselves to human empathy. Large and mechanical (tiny brains) they roam the sea, bucket mouths open with the sum of their lives being to eat and reproduce. More like relics of the dinausor age, they appear to exist in a time-plane other that ours and you can’t help but have the unsettling sense that you are entirely invisible to them because their mind still dwells some 80 million years ago.

My row was as spectacular as I’d hoped. it was a perfect evening and three sharks were feeding off the hostel. I was able to go amongst them and the photo’s show the result. A night to treasure.

This sequence shows a large female (?) at around 6 -7  metres (longer than the boat) checking me out repeatedly. She would swing in and at the last moment submerge to pass directly below the boat. Sitting in a little cockleshell and having a few tons of shark glide slowly under you and within touching distance, is bracing. What you are seeing is her snout, dorsal fin and tail. What you don’t see is the metre wide open bucket of a mouth below.

Last nights clouds suggest wind -and on cue the wind got up through the night. Blowing a warm 4 0r 5 today so no more rowing in the meantime.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ally permalink
    September 11, 2012 8:12 pm

    What amazing photos (*-*)

    • September 11, 2012 10:20 pm

      Thanks Ally ! Good seeing you.

      John.

      • Ally permalink
        September 12, 2012 5:32 pm

        You too .,,,, hopefully see you again soon !

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