We have had a few quiet trips lately, but with improving weather and “feed” finally arriving on the south coast, the wildlife is becoming more exciting. The first signs of this have been huge numbers of jellyfish arriving with the plankton blooms, and with them the Ocean Sunfish. But far more tantalizing have been recent reports- the most recent being yesterday off Epsom Shoal- of Leatherback Turtles- presumably attracted to the abundant jellyfish.

     Mermaid II had 2 scheduled wildlife trips today, but the most remarkable things were the long over-due hot weather and masses of Compass and Moon Jellies. We did have a couple of close encounters with sunfish, and there were hundreds of birds- mostly Manx Shearwaters and Gannets- feeding off-shore. We were heading back from the Minack  theatre  at the end of our 5pm cruise when I saw what appeared to be something tangled with one of the deeper pot-buoys. Chris had also seen it thinking it was caught in a strong tide, but as I continued to watch through binoculars I thought I could see a flipper thrashing to one side of the buoy. I couldn’t help thinking it might  be a turtle, but it took me a couple of minutes to convince myself it wasn’t just weed, and even then I realised it could be a sunfish or even cetacean. I called Adrian and we headed for the buoy and as we got closer it was obvious there was an animal tangled with the pot-rope! For one moment as a head appeared I thought it might even be a shark ( I’ve never seen any turtle in the wild let alone off Cornwall!) but the flippers and finally it’s huge back broke the surface and it was clearly a Leatherback Turtle in difficulties!
I tried to take a couple of shots but Adrian called me to fetch the boat-hook so we could try to untangle the turtle from the large orange buoy. As we got within a few metres of the turtle it began to change the direction it was trying to swim to avoid the boat, and , luckily this was all it needed to do to free it’s self from the rope- it had the rope caught between it’s neck and the base of it’s left fore-flipper and was trying to swim forward with the tide dragging the bouy over it’s neck and back, so by turning with the tide the rope just slid off. We pulled the buoy up to make sure the turtle was not still tangled further down but it was clearly free and had gone deep to make good it’s escape.
     I couldn’t help feeling a bit disappointed that I had failed to get good photographs of this magnificent beast- nearly 6 feet long with huge flippers, and it’s strange shark-like eyes and hooked beak, but the main thing is we may well have helped prevent it at least exhausting or injuring it’s self! These awesome creatures are threatened in the wild- mostly by damage or theft to eggs and nests, so it’s nice to think we may have done our bit! Let’s hope the weather  and jellyfish remain favourable so we can see some more!
Turtle 3