Incredible Oceans 2017

The train rattles, clickety clack clickety clack, as it rushes towards the Capital. The scenery outside rushing by, transforms from extensive fields, meandering rivers and woodlands to neat rows of houses and industrial estates with corrugated roofs. Still I pick out geese wandering over fields, ducks wending their way along the rivers, a rush of black crows, a flock of brilliantly white swans. The train starts to pass tall blocks of flats, offices and a football stadium, and then finally we enter Kings Cross station. On the platform, amongst the bustle of people, and over the sound of arriving trains and the PA system, I head for the underground, only briefly glancing towards the far end of the station where I can already see, even at this relatively early hour, the queues already building in front of a trolley disappearing into a wall….

Down the steps I descend into the tunnels of the underground system. A rush of warm air signals the oncoming train as I join the crowds on the platform and then bustle onto the brightly lit train. Through the darkness of the tunnels and coming out into tiled stations, the train sways on its journey under London. I switch at Bank Station and get onto the DLR, or the Docklands Light Railway. The carriages are more angular than the rounded trains of the Tube. They are also more light and airy with larger windows looking out at the London skyline as we come out from the underground. The railway makes its way alongside the river, on the other side of the murky water I can see the high-rise, glass buildings of Canary Wharf and the large, spaceship like Millennium Dome (now of course the O2). The sky is a pale grey, smudgy and indistinct. Soon the train arrives at my destination. Prince Regent for the ExCel Centre. Joining the crowds leaving the train I work my way up the steps and into the large, light entrance space of the ExCel. From here is a large, open space, almost like a corridor filled with tables and chairs of cafes. Along the sides are various booths of food outlets and restaurants, and massive doors leading into vast halls. It is into one of these that I enter. It is filled with stalls, all labelled with organisations names. There are travel companies, charities, clothing companies, outdoor gear shops selling clothes, tents and other equipment, dive companies selling gear and trips, there is a bike ramp set up and even a climbing wall. This is the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show, including the Triathlon Show, London Bike Show and Oceans featuring the Dive Show. A strange place you might think for a countryside loving, wildlife watching, whale enthusiast like me to be. But there over on the far side I see what I am looking for. A large, life-sized Sperm Whale.

For here where over 50000 visitors will pass through over four days, the Incredible Oceans Team has made their mark. Incredible Oceans comes from the team who brought WhaleFest to life. Incredible Oceans is their new schools outreach programme which educates school children about ocean conservation. WhaleFest will return as an event run by Incredible Oceans.

So here amongst the bustle of camping, diving, travel, bikes, triathlon gear there is the Incredible Oceans. At its entrance a stage from which volunteers take and inspire kids and adults alike about whales and dolphins, our oceans and places like The Azores and La Gomera. Then on entering a darkened space lit with swirling blue lights, the wonderful shapes of life sized whales and dolphins appear all around you. An orca greets you at the entrance, followed by groups of dolphins, sharks, and dugongs overhead. The sounds of the ocean, the calls of orca and humpback whales singing surround you, immersing you into an underwater experience. A long table, lit by lamps reveals amazing artefacts from the marine world. The shoulder blade of a pilot whale, the skull of a porpoise, the tooth of a sperm whale, the tusk of a walrus. The jaws of a white-tipped reef shark and a thorn-back ray prove particularly popular with the kids, with rows and rows of sharp teeth. Across the other side of the space, more lamps light up jars filled with weird and wonderful creatures of the deep. They could have come straight out of Professor Snape’s dungeon….A squid with one big eye and one little eye, an angler fish with large teeth in a tiny body, lure still visible on the head. Octopus, shrimps and even a dragonfish…

It is a wonderful display, with volunteers on hand to share information on the amazing creatures and their ocean home. Through to another, smaller room and one of the biggest issues facing our oceans and its inhabitants is brought to life. Plastic. Unlike the previous room, filled with amazing creatures, sounds and specimens, this room is blank. On one wall, lit my bluish light, are thousands of plastic bottle tops reaching in long lines to the roof. On another wall a video plays messages about the scale of plastic pollution in our oceans, which is enormous…. 8 million tonnes of plastic every year enormous!

Finally, emerging into the big, bright open space and bustle of the hall once more, the final part of the Incredible Oceans event is revealed. Solutions to the problem. In the light of the hall goods made from upcycled plastic and ocean plastic are displayed alongside companies presenting alternatives to single use goods. There is clothing, reusable water bottles, bags and flip flops, even kayaks, body boards and skateboards!

And with that there was one final pledge to make. Having you picture taken wearing something silly displaying a message. A message carrying a pledge stating how we can help reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans… #refuse4good.

And so there it was. For me one day of talking whales, dolphins and all things oceans to hundreds of people. For Incredible Oceans it is day 3 of 4. Now it was time to get back on the trains and head for home…

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