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Grey seal underwater at the Farne islands, by Joost van Uffelen

Of NorthSea castles and seals

The NorthSea traditionally is one of the most overused and overfished seas in the world. 

Stories of big fish schools swarming wrecks were like fairytales to me during our NorthSea expedition, although some parts of the NorthSea are supposed to be making a comeback from the real bad days..

There are however places in the NorthSea were animals are thriving. The grey seal population of the Farne Islands is one of these success stories.

The numbers of grey seals in the Farnes are steadily on the rise for years for a number of reasons. Firstly, the islands are away from human civilization. Apart from limited lobster and crab fishing, not much is happening on the Farnes as it is a bird sanctuary too. Secondly, the beaches of the islands are ideal haul out spots for resting and breeding seals. Also, the waters of the National Nature Reserve provide for a steady supply of sand eels which are the main food source for the grey seals.

Enough reason for us to go and check up on the seals for which the population is estimated to hold more than 5500 seals at the moment. In late autumn the viz was supposed to be great as there would be less plankton in the sea. Sadly cold autumn storms and unsettled weather patterns played their part and even left a blanket of snow in the hills. Yes, it was chilly as fffff....surprise!

In the end we only got one day out at the islands after the heavy rains and winds disappeared. The weather had messed up the visibility quite badly too.

Luckily the seals did not disappoint and seemed surprised that someone would brave these conditions to come and say hello. They were like ghosts that appeared from nowhere whenever you'd least expect them. It was a whole lot of fun to get sneaked up upon and the experience made that we wanted to go back in the moment we left the water.

The cool thing was that the pupping season was well underway too (as it starts from the end of September). The pebble beaches on the islands were littered with little white, fluffy seal pups.

Most pups were already marked by researchers that want to keep track of birth numbers. The bright yellow, blue and pink paint stains on their fur somehow made for a happy spectacle smiley

It would be awesome to join the researchers for a day on the islands.

Oh and in case you did not know, seals love fins wink

Can you spot the other two seals awaiting their turn to nibble my freedive fin?

If you're in the Northumberland area make sure to check out the castles that are on the coastline too. Bamburgh castle is in great condition and sits right on the beachside overlooking the Farne islands.

Lindisfarne castle sits on a rocky outcrop further North. The hail storms battered the castle (and our heads) when we paid the location a visit.

Also, the famous Sycamore Gap on Hadrians wall is just a little over an hours drive away. Sycamore gap was featured in the movie Robin Hood. At this lonesome tree the scene was shot were Kevin Costner takes on English soldiers that cornered a deer hunting boy.

After the snowstorm we hiked along Hadrians wall to the tree before the snow would vanish.

Speaking about Robin.. we also met this beauty at Hadrians wall...

joostvanuffelen's picture
About the Author:
Joost loves the oceans, travelling and (underwater)photography. Combining those three elements he creates ocean art, travel reports and ocean photo stories...

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