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Seawatching Nightmares
This page will describe some the various things that can go wrong for a seawatcher. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have more disaster stories to add.

Seawatching Nightmare #1 - FOG

At  Skogsøy the chance of sea fog is highest during May - this can be particularly frustrating as it is at the peak of the spring migration. Thankfully it rarely lasts very long and tends to be very localised.

The following picture illustrates a catastrophic seawatching event that took place over the space of a little over three minutes on 10 May 2006. To make matters worse the first Pomarine Skua of the year passed 10 minutes before this happened, closely followed by a White-billed Diver which vanished into the wall of fog......frustrating!

A seawatcher's nightmare...
Not much one can do about this....

Normally the view in this direction looks something like this, though the horizon is somewhat hazy even in this picture....

View to the north

Seawatching Nightmare #2 - BIG waves

Date: October 1956
Place: North Gare breakwater, (then in North Yorkshire, now Cleveland)
Seawatchers present: Among others: D.G Bell (aged 22), Alan and Tony Vittery (aged 14 and 17)

During a heavy passage of Pomarine Skuas the three lads were seawatching on North Gare breakwater. The weather was dry and sunny but strong winds had led to a heavy swell; without any warning a freak wave came along the breakwater and covered the avid young seawatchers, dragging with it a rucksack, thermos flasks and other sundry items but thankfully no optical equipment. Clinging to an iron rung in the breakwater with one hand and to the youngest of the Vittery brothers in the other the oldest of the seawatchers felt the drag of the cold waters, opening his eyes to "see" that they were completely submerged. Miraculously all three survived - but that is not all. The crazy thing about this story is that after some stamping around to get the warmth back in their bodies this intrepid trio continued seawatching as if nothing had happened. Who wouldn't? With the poms passing in good numbers it takes a lot to leave....
Undeterred, another survivor of this freak wave emptied the seawater out of his motorcycle helmet and roared off to find a Leach's Petrel on the other side of the estuary.

Seawatching Nightmare #3 - No binoculars

Believe it or not it is possible to go seawatching and forget binoculars either at home or in the car. After an early start, full of anticipation about huge numbers of exciting seabirds, being a little absent minded is almost understandable. This nightmare happens surprisingly often - though I have yet to experience that someone has actually left their telescope behind. Imagine the feeling (or perhps you don't have to!) of arriving at a seawatching location after a long drive and / or a long walk only to find one doesn't have any binoculars......

Seawatching Nightmare #4 - Wrong weather forecast

This must be by far the commonest seawatching nightmare. Based on a promising weather forecast arrangements are made with work and / or family and the the seawatching trip is on. All too often the weather forecast is wrong and the big day either  doesn't materialise or perhaps even worse, is delayed by a day - and having used up leave or  goodwill there is just no chance to make it.....

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