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National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2018: the results are in!

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2018 marked the 17th year of Sea Watch Foundation’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch event, a citizen science project which has gained tremendous popularity over the years.

Last year’s event, which took place 28th July – 5th August, revealed striking biodiversity with an impressive 13 species of cetaceans seen around the British Isles in just those few days, a number which was only been recorded once before. The total number of sightings collected was larger than last year, and the highest reported so far. The 2018 event totalled 1,328 hours of watches conducted, over 100 hours more than in 2016. Over 43% of the total amount of hours spent collecting effort-related data came from land-based locations.

Students from the University of Hull conducting a land watch from Filey Brigg. Photo credit: University of Hull

“I am very proud of what we achieved with the help of wildlife enthusiasts and conservation and recording organisations around the country, who have contributed data collected from boats (inshore and offshore) and from land stations in different parts of the UK”, says Dr Chiara Giulia Bertulli, organiser of this year’s national event for the UK national research charity, Sea Watch Foundation.

South Grampian, Outer Hebrides, South Devon, Northeast and Northwest Scotland as well as West Wales are at the top of the list with sighting rates far superior to “2” (indicating an average of two or more cetaceans seen per hour of watching). Based on this year’s results, the UK’s national average sightings rate has increased compared to last year with over one cetacean seen for each hour of watching.

“The most memorable sightings from this past year’s Watch week”, adds Chiara, “include humpback whales in Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire, striped dolphins live stranding in South Wales, Sowerby’s beaked whale in East Lothian, fin whales in Northeast Scotland and Outer Hebrides, and large pods of short-beaked common dolphins off Puffin Island and Menai Bridge in North Wales.”

Common minke whale photographed off Penzance, Cornwall, on August 3rd. Photo credit: Hannah Jones / Marine Discovery Penzance

During the 2018 NWDW event, species such as harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, and minke whale continued to have a widespread coastal distribution and, as the results show, most of their sightings were actually recorded in coastal waters from land. Short-beaked common dolphins, an ocean species known for their offshore distribution, were mainly sighted from motorised vessels. Striped dolphins, which were only recorded once were also sighted from a vessel. Atlantic white-sided dolphins were sighted six times, and, unusually, 83% of those times it was from land.

The ability to detect cetaceans and collect sightings information is strongly affected by several weather parameters such as sea state, glare, swell height and visibility. When the weather deteriorates due to strong winds and/or heavy rain, watches may even be cancelled altogether as conditions are no longer suitable to collect presence and absence data. Taking this into account, every year, NWDW is organized over a period of nine days to increase the chances of getting favourable weather conditions to conduct land and boat watches at different sites around the UK. Last year, weather was changeable, with temperatures generally well above average.

Bottlenose dolphins photographed off Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, on July 31st. Photo credit: Amber Thomas

Of the species recorded during the 2018 NWDW event, the harbour porpoise was the most commonly seen in most parts of the UK, followed by bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin and common minke whale.

With regards to the distribution of cetacean sightings around the UK, Scotland recorded the highest number of sightings, with the most sightings coming from South-West Scotland and Inner Hebrides, Outer Hebrides and North-West Scotland. England was second with the neighbouring regions of Cornwall, South Devon providing the most sightings followed by Yorkshire. Wales placed third with West Wales collecting most of sightings. Around the Channel Islands, observers reported 26 sightings, and there were nine reports from around the Isle of Man. Six sightings were also recorded in Northern Ireland.

Sea Watch Foundation are seeking volunteers to come forward to take part in the National Whale and Dolphin Watch 2019 this summer, which takes place 27th July – 4th August. Surveys can take place from your favourite or closest bit of coastline and boat-users are urged to get in touch too. No experience is necessary as the team at Sea Watch will offer you training and advice on how to take part.


Download a copy of the full 2018 National Whale and Dolphin Watch report HERE. 

Find out more about the 2019 NWDW event HERE.

Anyone interested in spending more time looking for whales, dolphins and porpoises around the UK should visit the Sightings Network webpage at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/regional-groups or submit their sightings online at www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/sightingsform.

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Book Release: Diving the Thistlegorm – The Ultimate Guide to a World War II Shipwreck

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Diving the Thistlegorm is a unique in-depth look at one of the world’s best-loved shipwrecks. In this highly visual guide, cutting edge photographic methods enable views of the wreck and its fascinating cargo which were previously impossible.

This book is the culmination of decades of experience, archaeological and photographic expertise, many hours underwater, months of computer processing time, and days spent researching and verifying the history of the ship and its cargo. For the first time, Diving the Thistlegorm brings the rich and complex contents of the wreck together, identifying individual items and illustrating where they can be found. As the expert team behind the underwater photography, reconstructions and explanations take you through the wreck in incredible detail, you will discover not only what has been learned but also what mysteries are still to be solved.

Find out more about:

  • One of the world’s greatest dives.
  • Incredible ‘photogrammetry’ shows the wreck and cargo in a whole new light.
  • Meticulous detail presented in a readable style by experts in their respective fields.

About the authors:

Simon Brown is an underwater photographer and photogrammetry/3D expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia. Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”. Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.


About the book:

  • Release date 25 November 2020
  • Limited run of Hardbacks
  • RRP £35
  • ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5
  • 240 photo-packed pages
  • 240 x 160 mm

Available to pre-order now from Divedup.com, Amazon, online, and from retailers.

Check back on Scubaverse.com for a review of the book coming soon!

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Deptherapy’s Dr Richard Cullen becomes a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

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Dr Richard Cullen, Chairman of Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, has been recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society is a prestigious Fellowship that is open to those who demonstrate a sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through publications, research or professional experience.

Paul Rose, Deptherapy’s Vice Chair, and a world renowned explorer, author, broadcaster, who is a former Vice Chair of the RGS said: 

“This is a huge achievement by Richard. His Fellowship is richly deserved, and a direct result of his steadfast commitment to preserving our oceans through Deptherapy’s very powerful ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ Programme.  I know the top team at the RGS are looking forward to welcoming Richard into the Society.”

The RGS was founded in 1830 to advance geographical research, education, fieldwork and expeditions, as well as by advocating on behalf of the discipline and promoting geography to public audiences.

Paul Toomer, President of RAID, said:

“I have been close friends with Richard for many years and his passion for our seas, even at 70 years of age, is undiminished.  Deptherapy are the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving teaching and are our much valued partners.  Taking UK Armed Forces Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges and engaging them in major marine biology expeditions, is to most of us beyond the realms of possibility.  The skills these guys have to develop is just awesome.  This is a great honour for Richard, a great honour for Deptherapy, and also for us as their partners.  The diving world must come together to celebrate and acknowledge Richard’s achievement.”

Richard joins some distinguished Fellows of the RGS.  Former Fellows include Ernest Shackleton and many other notable explorers and geographers.

Richard said:

“I am both honoured and humbled to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When I was invited to apply for a Fellowship, I was, which is very unusual for me, lost for words.  I hope it will allow me to take our message of Protecting Our Oceans to a larger audience and to further develop our programmes.  The Fellowship is a recognition of the charity’s work to raise awareness of the plight of our oceans.  The credit belongs to a group of individuals who have overcome massive challenges to let alone qualify as divers but now to progress to marine biology expedition diving”.

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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