Posted by: orcaweb | June 14, 2012

‘FINtastic’ Festival Fun!

Hi, Alison here, hijacking the wildlife officer blog for the second time to bring you news of the first ever North East Marine Wildlife Festival, which took place last week (4-10 June).

A hall filled with massive, floating inflatable whales and dolphins… does it get any better!?

Yes.. but only if you add a basking shark and a great white shark into the mix!

And what a week it was! Without a doubt this has been the best week of the project so far, I have been thoroughly enjoying myself first with a room full of blow up whales and dolphins at the Great North Museum followed by a weekend out and about on coast, playing pirates and watching wildlife.

I arrived at the Great North Museum on Tuesday eager to see the inflatables, curious to see just how much of the hall they would fill. And I wasn’t disappointed; they were massive and had been suspended from the ceiling! The whole room looked amazing. And it didn’t take long for someone to confirm my (potentially biased) assessment. I had not been there 5 minutes before a small boy came running in, stopped in his tracks shouted “WHOHA” then ran around with an impressively long “ARGHHHH”, round and round the whales for a good 2 minutes. If I was 5 I would have done exactly the same!

Be the dolphin, be the dolphin…

Checking out the minke baleen

Mid-afternoon porpoise cuddle you say? Why not?!

‘FINtastic’ festival fun!

I managed to wait about an hour before I tried out the virtual whale watching. It was brilliant; we sat in an inflatable rib watching whales on a huge screen. The experience was authentic with a ‘cool sea breeze’ provided courtesy of a few portable fans and the occasional spray of a blue whale taking me by surprise so much so that I squealed louder than any of the children in the boat.

For the rest of the week I bopped along to sea shanties by live folk band the Keelers, listened to Salty Tales by Taffy Thomas, got involved in a whale rescue (a simulation, no real whales were hurt in the making of this festival!) and identified the species of ‘shark’ my mermaids purses came from – a spotted ray and a lesser spotted catfish for anyone who is interested.

Saving a 2 tonne whale with BDMLR!!

Clipping on the pontoons… time to re-float the whale.

Over the week I met some amazing people, including 5 year old Thomas who told me straight how we should deal with Britain’s by catch problem. And he was quite right, “nets shouldn’t be ‘this big’ **spreads arms out very wide**, they should be ‘this big’ **holds hands out so they are about the width of his chest** and we shouldn’t fish where the animals live”. Frankly I think he should be leading on the Marine Conservation Zones project!

Then on Saturday the event I had been waiting for: ‘Pirates of the North East and the Quest for the Legendary Lost porpoise’! Unashamedly dressed up in my pirate costume, shouting “YARGH!! Ye Scurvy Sea Dogs” for the best part of 6 hours I met brothers Captain Jack and Captain Andrew.  These two pirates fully embraced their pirate quest leading their crew to victory over Mad Cap’n Mike with their impressive knowledge of the harbour porpoise – go boys!

Pirates on their quest for the Legendary Lost Porpoise! Saturday 9 June, Souter Lighthouse.

Finally we wrapped up the festival with a World Oceans Day celebration at St Mary’s Island. There was lots of wildlife to be seen and a curious young grey seal who kept us company all day! I also met 4 year old Jack who carried out two consecutive marine mammal surveys from the top of St. Mary’s Lighthouse: spotting 1 seal, 2 cormorants, 5 boats and most impressively a blue whale breaching (I unfortunately missed this last one)! I was told off by Jack on multiple occasions for not recording fast enough – he was very strict.

Jack starting his 5 minute marine mammal survey, Sunday 10 June, St Mary’s Lighthouse.

Curious grey seal keeping ORCA company at St Mary’s Lighthouse

And there ends my round up of this ‘FINtastic’ week of festival fun! Thanks to everyone who made this festival possible in particular DFDS Seaways for sponsoring; ERIC North East and Great North Museum for organising and hosting, Planet Whale, BDMLR and my amazing team of volunteers  who entertained and educated thousands of people over the week! Can’t wait for next year!

For more festival photos visit


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