Nature 1 – Humans 0
Sometimes we have to bow to a force that is much bigger than us. In Scotland, that usually means the weather. The last couple of winters have been much milder than the one or two before that and we haven’t had two feet of snow suddenly descend in April as we did a few years ago. But the wind seems not to have stopped for the last five months.
We have a class from Finland visiting us at the moment, and one of the trips was to be a boat trip to the Bass Rock, a piece of volcanic rock about a mile off the coast of North Berwick, south of Edinburgh. That description doesn’t quite do it justice though. It’s about a hundred metres high (for the pedants, that’s the part above the sea) and looks to be white from a distance. That’s because it is the home of somewhere around 100 – 150,000 gannets, apparently 10% of the entire population of North Atlantic gannets.
Up close, you get a sense of the sheer number of birds as well as seeing the (now unmanned) lighthouse and ruins of a castle and a 15th century chapel.
Now there was no way I was ever going to get on this boat:
It had nothing to do with the boat, which has been in service for fifty years. I feel sick travelling on a train, never mind on a boat, even though I did make the catastrophic mistake of underestimating my reaction to the sea a few years ago when we went on a whale watch in Boston and I didn’t see anything other than the side of the boat for the first ten minutes before my body gave up and I fell asleep in an effort to recover from the ordeal, only to get a bad sunburn on one side of my legs. So unless it’s a rowing boat on a pond, you will not see me on anything that goes on water. I have accepted that this means I will never see some of the islands off the Scottish coast but have made my peace with that.
Doesn’t look that bad, does it?
The Finnish class had followed the advice to wrap up warmly and everyone was on the boat… when the captain announced that they had to cancel the trip. A boat much more suited to rough water had just had to come back at half speed and they had already cancelled all the remaining trips from that day and the following.
If he isn’t going to go out in that wind…
Fortunately, the Seabird Centre was there and was somewhere I had never been before. Those gannets featured with some prominence in a short film. It turns out they dive bomb into the sea to catch fish – you can see clips here and here – they just suddenly drop into the sea en masse. Somehow they manage to avoid hitting each other. You can just imagine what would happen if a bunch of humans started to dive into the sea together. Chaos and injuries would abound. But these birds manage to look graceful even when swimming under water.
I would not want to be a fish anywhere near the Bass Rock, that’s for sure. So all was well that ended well and at least the sun shone behind the wind today.