Friday, 29 December 2017

Orca-strating

I'm not sure when my interest and curiosity of animals began, but I do have fond memories of when I was a small kid and used to sit with my natural history books that my parents got me.  I'd sit there for a while flicking through the books and looking at the pictures in detail.  It's here where my lifelong interest and amazement of orcas began - those striking and fierce aesthetics.  It's also where I picked up basic knowledge of animal classifications and the diversity of species we inhabit this world with.  Today I still hear myself regurgitating random animal related facts to friends.  I still have a few of these books from my childhood days, I know this because there is little doodles and stamp marks that I made on them!  As I grew older I learned more about animals through TV and good ol' David Attenborough material.  I even did a couple of courses with the Open University; Darwin and Evolution and Neighbourhood Nature.

My first pet was a typical Syrian hamster - which I am still very fond of and have to fight of the odd urge to get one!  But this became somewhat of an obsession when my friend and I started to breed our own hamsters in our early teens.  This led to me getting a garden shed where I got a few more hamsters.  I started with three, two females and a male and chose different colour variations and types.  Breeding wasn't all that difficult, but you did have to know when and how.  I can still remember the 'in season' signs! 😂 I kept some babies for breeding purposes, but then sold the rest to the pet shop - nice little money earner it was.  I eventually ended up getting some guinea pigs, a rabbit, fancy mice, Russian hamsters, chinchillas and degus.

Because of my interest and connections with animals and spirituality, I was keen to know what my spirit animal was.  However, I pretty much knew what it was all along, but I guess I was seeking 'official' confirmation.  Since as a kid looking through my natural history books, I have always been drawn to orcas.  Not really sure why, but they are so striking and fascinating to me and had an instant connection with them.  I used to draw them in my notepads and colouring books in various shapes and forms.  I can still do the basic doodle today!  I also had many figurines of them, you know the ones from Early Learning Centre.  For my birthdays and Christmases I always got some sort of ocean based gift, may it be a jigsaw, t-shirt, duvet or stationery set etc.

I bought a couple of spirit animal books and they taught me ways to call upon my spirit animal.  I purchased a few books, some were shamanism (which is something I still need to learn more about) and the others were Steven Farmer's 'Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides Cards ' and accompanying 'Animal Spirit Guides'.  I used the spirit cards for further guidance and inspiration on issues or feelings I may be experiencing.  You don't have to be spiritual to use them, but having an open mind is recommended.  Ultimately, they're a positive way of seeing and dealing with a problem.

After much reading and getting to know the various creatures on the animal spirit cards, I asked for my spirit animal to show itself to me.  This could appear in many forms, but obviously not right in front of me - because that's just stupid. 🙄 A few hours had past - saw or had no signs.  A couple of days - nothing.  But over the space of a week, I saw orcas on TV in various nature programmes and the Free Willy movie, all of which was confirmation for me as I weren't actively looking for these programmes, they were just on when flicking.  Plus, before this I hadn't seen any orcas on TV or through social media so that was enough to me for proof.  I even saw orca in my mobile phone as a system app!  To my surprise, I realised in my spirit animal cards pack that there were two whale cards.  There's only meant to be one of each animal, so to me the extra whale one was another piece of confirmation.  Due to all of this enthusiasm and excitement around this, I wanted to get myself an orca necklace.  When I purchased it online, the company was called Dan's jewellers.  I also bought myself a nice figurine orca that sits proudly above my fireplace.  After these snippets of confirmation and the experiences from when I was a child, I just knew orcas were my spirit animal.

In the Summer of 2014 I finished a book I had bought a while ago ''The Beauty in the Beast" by High Warwick.  Inspired by his story of getting his tattoo of his favourite animal, I decided to get one of mine.  For my 29th birthday in August 2015 I got my first tattoo on the bottom of my left leg to represent my spirit animal - an orca!  I just wanted to honour it on me as it's clearly a being I am interested and connected with.  I've a few more ideas for more tattoos in the future to represent other interests and connections.

My love for orcas have since been amplified by the documentary/movie Blackfish (2013) that resulted in some brief activist participation.  One year as a Christmas I was gifted with a Whale and Dolphin Conservation sponsored orca in my name, Fife.  This spurred me into wanting to do more with charity and generally for other whales, dolphins and the ocean itself.  I want to get more involved in raising awareness about whales and the wider ocean, but I need to accomplish some other things first before I start this up.  I do contribute to friends fundraising activities and sign petitions online, but it's not enough really.  Maybe I could channel my passions to be some sort of orca activist?  However, I am limited to ocean stuff as I live in mainland and can't always go to the coast. ☹ I've yet to see orcas in the wild, in fact I am overdue a second trip to Iceland to see them up there.  You can see them around the UK, but it's usually around northern Scotland and John o' Groats area.

EDIT:  Not an orca but did see my first Great Whale, a Bryde's whale, in Madeira August 2019.

In June 2021, I visited John O'Groats with friends as road trip holiday.  First staying in Corpach, North of Fort William then driving up to John O'Groats.  Coincidentally the Orca Watch event was happening whilst we were there.  I have been aware of this event since 2012 when I nearly planned a solo trip up there.  So I thought I'd join the Facebook group and start getting information.  Anyway, on Friday 4th June I saw in the Orca Watch Facebook group that around 9.30am an orca was sighted off Dunnet Head (mainland).  Having two of my other friends drove past their on way back from shop night before, they knew exactly where it was.  So we set off about 30 mins or so later.  Within 10 minutes of arriving whilst gazing past the lighthouse I shouted orca!  I spotted a lone orca feeding or hunting.  I saw the iconic eye patch and dorsal fin, which looked female. So very lucky, especially when many others had been there all week with poor weather too and didn't get the opportunity.  So I was feeling both elated but saddened for others.  Later in the afternoon we had booked a wildlife cruise - no orcas but saw colony of sea birds, puffins and an unseen minke whale - apparently one breached near us but didn't resurface.

As I was proposed to at the top of Ben Nevis a couple days before by my partner Gary, I feel like this trip has had both an achievement and a lifelong dream; getting to top of the UK's highest mountain with a surprise proposal and seeing a wild orca.  My appetite to see more and hopefully pods grown ever stronger!  However, an unforgettable holiday!

My experience was both lucky and brilliant, but no where near as epic as James Copeland's who also had his dreams come true of seeing wild orcas; Tears of joy for orca fan after close encounter with the 27s – on his 27th birthday.