Thursday, 10 June 2010


Monday this week I had the day more or less to myself, the weather as it has been all week was awful, grey wet and dull, more like a winters day than summer but then that's kind of typical for Britain, the previous weeks glorious sunshine was clearly all we are going to get for the time being. Anyway, back to Monday, I drove over to the coast knowing that high water was around lunchtime. On arrival the sea look reasonably inviting albeit the air temperature was lower than I expected for that of the water. I was alone on the beach, not even a dog walker in sight.

I stood on the sand applying some Vaseline to my arm pits and then I saw it, I waited, kept looking, there it was again, there was something big and dark in the water about thirty metres off shore just where I was about to head, I stood mesmerised, trying to focus, was I seeing things, maybe it was a log or something?

Then up it popped again, initially I thought it was a dorsal fin but soon I realised it was a seal, I was, by now totally freaked out, I had not expected to see anything and whilst I can deal with stuff once I am in the water this was doing nothing for my enthusiasm to get in. My mind had gone. I sneaked into the water just long enough to get cold then drove home completely paranoid about what I was going to do, if it was safe to swim here anymore and my future plans.
Once home I emailed Gary Emich and Ned Denison for some advice and reassurance, this is what they said

"We have had several instances over the years of young pups coming up & nudging swimmers playfully. As you can imagine, the swimmers freak & swim like hell which is akin to running away from a dog - the seal pup then chases the swimmers and continues to bump them - it's a game. I've been bumped 3 times and each time I just stopped swimming - the pup surfaced 3 feet away with eyes that were saying - "swim, so I can chase you" - after a minute or 2 of stand-off he basically said "sod off - you're no fun" and swam away.They're curious but normally not aggressive - nothing to worry about. Gary"

"If it is a male seal...I always pull the front of my togs down...that scares them away..

No seriously...just ignore them. Don't splash or bark at them. Don't try to play and don't ever corner them (like in a cave or small inlet) At Sandycove they will occasionally brush our feet or swim up at at us - only to veer away at the last minute. Just ignore them. Ned"

So there you have it, I was scared of a little seal, I am pleased to say that armed with the advice of two seasoned experts I am happy to get back into the North Sea with or without the company of my new friends. Its been their pool longer than mine after all, I suppose I am the intruder not them.


Lisa said...

I remember one day when I was swimming along the back of the island with two others who were ahead of me and I felt something tap me on the foot...when I knew that there was noone behind me...very freaky moment! I guessed what it was though because we do have a few seals that turn up in the area quite a bit and I'd heard of them coming up to people before. It still kinda freaked me out tho!
Another day we were swimming and Imelda was doing backcrawl and she could see one following behind my toes along the inside of the island, I never even knew it was there!
They are quite curious so they'll come up and check you out but I think in general they're pretty harmless as long as you're not threatening them.
Have fun swimming with them :)

Karen Throsby said...

Hi Mark
I think you did well to get in! I know there is wildlife in there, but I really don't want to see it, and certainly don't want it to "bump" me. I'm off to Cork tomorrow, so hope all the little seals are off chasing the faster swimmers and leave me be...

Mark said...

Thanks Lis though you kept that one quiet. I would have coped way better if I was with you during such an encounter. I am sure our French friend Sylvain would taste better than us two anyway! Nice to hear from you.

Hiya Karen, Nice that you commented, I bet you have a great time at Neds camp, you will have a blast they are a wonderful group of people. Say hello to Enda. Gabor. And the rest of the gang for me please. Keep an eye out for Sylvain and his waterproof video camera to appear when you least expect it!

Have fun girls. Thanks again

Susie said...

Very interesting and enjoyable to read of your thoughts and your swims. Noone else quite understands what we open water swimmers are all about.

Susie Maroney

Mark said...

Thanks Susie
I am flattered
going to post something about you now! Thanks for the inspiration
best wishes

Sylvain said...

Mark, I'm not sure seals are too fond of frogs... big snakes find us really tasty though!