Wednesday 25th March
The brand new ORCA Wildlife Centre on board the DFDS King Seaways is officially up and running!
Wildlife Officer Rachael Forster, North Sea Campaigns Manager Stephen House and Graphic Designer Wes Clough, among many others, have been working very hard to transform this new larger space into a more educational, interactive and welcoming exhibition for all to enjoy!
After much preparation, the launch event ran smoothly with presentations from Guest Speaker and Wildlife Photographer, Doug Allen really portraying an inspirational angle to the event. Pupils from Southridge First School, teachers and guests alike were amazed at the feats that Doug had achieved and were especially absorbed in his anecdotal tales about diving with Humpback Whales, filming Polar Bears on the pack ice and avoiding his brains being sucked out by a Walrus! Doug has spent much of his time filming under extreme conditions battling both cold and underwater habitats for some of Sir David Attenborough’s most famous documentaries such as Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and presenting on BBC’s Ocean Giants.
An incredible photo taken by Doug of a Humpback Whale was kindly donated to the ORCA Centre, adding to the new displays. ORCA’s patrons Chris Packham and Mark Carwardine also donated photographs, displaying some wonderful North Sea species such as Gannets, Terns and White-beaked Dolphins – really bringing the centre to life!
Also among the variety of guests that attended were representatives from various marine institutions such as the National Trust, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, BDMLR and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, all supporting the Launch. Members from the West Harton Community Action Group, South Shields VLB (Volunteer Life Brigade), Dove Marine Lab also showed their presence adding to the fruitful mix of people collaborating with the charity.
On a creative note, a special piece of artwork showcased at the event by Artist Rory McCann, beautifully portrayed the diversity of marine life in the North Sea as well as featuring the DFDS King Seaways! This is a fantastic addition to the new ORCA Wildlife Centre, and has been given pride of place in the Centre for all to see. Thank you Rory for creating a visual masterpiece – this will no doubt capture the imaginations of countless children as they venture into the centre this season.
After the official launch, the pupils from Southridge First School enjoyed a mix of marine-themed educational activities with Wildlife Officer’s Rachael Forster and Ruth Coxon, with the help of ORCA volunteer Becca Reid. These activities included an in-dock deck watch, a blubber glove demonstration – to highlight the importance of blubber to marine mammals, as well as introducing the making of Origami sea creatures. Overall, the pupils and teachers alike were very engaging and thoroughly enjoyed their visit on board the DFDS King Seaways.
Thank you to all of the DFDS staff for their amazing work and support leading up to the launch and thanks to all the Guests who attended, as well as the very well behaved pupils from Southridge First School and teachers – we hope that you will take away some interesting facts about cetaceans and continue to be inspired about the wildlife in our waters.
Your Seas Community Wildlife Officer, Rachael Forster, has remained on board after the launch event to begin the Wildlife Officer season, currently sailing to Amsterdam using the new Wildlife Centre to engage with and educate the passengers on board. Let us hope that with this big send off, the season turns out to be an eventful one, both in sightings and public outreach!
– Ruth Coxon (Junior North Sea Wildlife Officer)