Beautiful sea monsters

The seas around the Azores are teeming with life.  The deep waters are perfect for incredibly large whales including the elusive Blue Whale.  Sitting in your little inflatable speedboat your mind starts racing when you see the size of the creatures under the water.  Surely a whale in a bad mood could turn the boat over with a flick of his tail?  Stories of enormous sea monsters suddenly don’t seem so ridiculous after all.

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) photographed...

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fin Whales are the second largest mammal on Earth after the Blue Whale and we were lucky enough to see a small group of them.  They can grow up to an incredible 27 metres long and when they’re only about 100 metres away from you that’s not far in whale body lengths!  A glimpse of a huge jaw and an eye peered at us.  And if the biologist on the boat was right we only saw a third of him.  He was gone in a flash, hiding his bulk beneath the waves.  They seem like shy creatures… In 1916 RC Andrews called them “the greyhound of the sea…for its’ beautiful slender body is built like a racing yacht and the animal can surpass the speed of the fastest ocean steamship.” (Wikipedia)

From the sedate grace of the Fin Whales, the Orcas were just there to have fun or so it seemed.  They leapt and rolled and dived along with the boat.  They examined us from all angles; they peered at us from underneath the boat and examine the engine up close.  Born entertainers – beautiful to see their characters in the wild.  The crew was incredibly excited to see them – apparently they are rare visitors to the area.  A lone male appeared in the distance and the females left their play time with us to go and join him.

From source: Two mammal-eating "transient...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a magical performance in the middle of the ocean.

Our trip was booked through Sunvil Holidays – www.sunvil.co.uk.  Whale watching trips can be pre-booked.

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Where in the world…?

There is an air of mystery that surrounds the Azores. When you mention them, people tend to say “Where’s that?” There seems to be an air of mystery around them and once you have been there you kind of hope it stays that way. Often surrounded by mist and rolling waves you can imagine what sailors in ancient times must have thought as they stumbled across them. From the sea they must have looked like unapproachable lumps of black volcanic rock. But for those who persevered, a paradise awaited them.

The Azores archipelago (including the islands ...

The Azores archipelago (including the islands of Flores, Corvo, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Santa Maria and São Miguel). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The nine Portuguese islands are located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean between Portugal and America. Discovered during the 15th century, it’s hard to imagine what those first sailors saw. Black cliff faces, the crashing Atlantic seas and untamed vegetation. Even now the vegetation grows so densely that I can’t imagine what it was like if it was untamed – it would have represented a jungle. The first settlers must have had a battle on their hands hacking their way through to create habitable areas to grow crops. On Pico for example (not visited on this trip but have previously seen) the vines grow out of the volcanic rock in very little soil.

Strategically, the islands were a perfect stopping point for sailors and traders travelling between Europe and the New World and the main towns were well defended against pirates. In more recent times the Azores became a lifeline for the Allies in the First World War who used Horta and Ponta Delgada as safe harbours. In World War Two the Azores joined the Allies late in the conflict but built small airstrips on several of the islands for the British and American troops. The Azores proved vital in protecting trans-Atlantic crossings from German U-boats. And although the loss of ships was large the arrival of the airstrips evened out the numbers and then turned those numbers into the Allies’ favour. Post war Santa Maria’s airstrip became a stopping point for transatlantic flights until planes were able to do the journey non stop.

The small and unassuming islands have an incredible history and so few people have heard of them. They don’t lend themselves to being shouted about – they are relaxed, quiet and an explorer’s paradise. The natural beauty is outstanding and you can feel like the first person to discover a crater/lake/rocky inlet. Imagine what those first settlers felt when they saw these things…

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Our trip was booked through Sunvil Holidays – http://www.sunvil.co.uk.

Virginia Woolf Summer Events

Leonard and Virginia, as I Remember Them – Cecil Woolf
Friday 21st June 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Cecil Woolf is the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. He followed in their footsteps by establishing his own independent literary publishing house in 1960. Among many other works, he publishes the Bloomsbury monographs, which celebrate the life, work and times of the members of the Bloomsbury Group. He was fourteen when his Aunt Virginia died, and had paid a number of visits to the Woolfs at Rodmell and in London. In this talk he will reveal fascinating insights into his time spent at Monk’s House, and his childhood recollections of Leonard and Virginia.
£10 – includes a glass of wine

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford Deutsch: Die zwanzigjährige Virginia Woolf, fotografiert von George Charles Beresford (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Introduction to Virginia Woolf – Sarah M. Hall
Friday 5th July 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Learn more about Rodmell’s most famous resident, with writer and editor Sarah M. Hall. Sarah is a prominent member of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, a regular contributor to the Virginia Woolf Bulletin, and author of Before Leonard: The Early Suitors of Virginia Woolf and The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury. £10 – includes a glass of wine

To the River – Olivia Laing
Friday 19th July 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book of the Year, To the River is the story of the Ouse, the Sussex river in which Virginia Woolf drowned in 1941. One midsummer week, over sixty years after the author’s suicide, Olivia Laing walked Woolf’s river from source to sea, resulting in a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape – and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love. £10 – includes a glass of wine

Monk’s House Garden – Caroline Zoob
Friday 2nd August 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Rodmell Village Hall

Caroline Zoob, celebrated textile designer and embroiderer, and her husband Jonathan, were the last tenants at Monk’s House, where they spent 10 years caring for the beautiful garden. 2013 will see the publication of Caroline’s book about the remarkable garden that Leonard Woolf created, and in this talk she will reveal fascinating insights into how it has changed over the past 94 years. £10 – includes a glass of wine

A new VW play

“A Knife In The Whale”, a play by Liz Jardine-Smith and directed by Dominique Gerrard will be shown at the Compass Theatre in Ickenham (Uxbridge) on 31st May. “Virginia Woolf spent her life seeking to understand her own mind. This new play explores the links between her creativity and the mental illness she suffered throughout her life.” http://www.compasstheatre.co.uk/index.php/events/a-knife-in-the-whale/

Leonard Woolf Society

An inaugural meeting of the Leonard Woolf Society was held in London on 24th May 2012. The date 24th May was chosen because it was the day of departure of Leonard Woolf from Colombo in 1911. A Symposium on Leonard Woolf is being held on 24th May at Room G37 Senate House, Malet St., London WC1; there is also an entrance from Russell Square. Time is 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm. Registration fee of £10 for the Symposium includes LWS membership for 1 year.