'Scratching the Surface' - a guest post by Anne Bignall

If you glanced out to sea on a grey windy day in Orkney,  it would be easy to think that beneath the surface of the waves was pretty murky and inhospitable –  a place lacking in colour and perhaps rather sparse in life. This couldn’t be further from the truth!  Even at the shallowest depths, there are a wide variety of  vibrant, colourful and dynamic habitats supporting an astonishing array of animals.  Kelp forests, eelgrass meadows, rocky outcrops adorned with seaweeds and the sand or muddy sea bed itself make Orkney a fantastic place for life to flourish and our clear water makes it a great place for snorkelers or divers to experience what is there.

You get a hint of what might be living beneath the surface when things are washed up on the beach dead,  or by catching a glimpse of dolphins or whales breaking the surface of the water, seeing seals hauled out or even seeing seafood caught locally.  However, spending time in the water, enables you to experience this amazing ‘other world’ and to see marine animals living out their lives, responding to their surroundings and interacting with each other.  Once you’ve experienced this and made that connection it is impossible to ignore the catastrophic damage plastic litter is causing to the environment and the horrendous suffering it causes to sentient animals that rely on the ocean like seals, cetaceans and seabirds.

All the picture in the slideshow are taken around Orkney’s coast – most in water only a couple of metres deep.  If you are really inspired, why not try snorkelling yourself? For more information you can visit the Snorkel Orkney Facebook page where some of Orkney’s avid snorkelers post pictures and discuss marine life.

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