Tag Archives: inspiring

Stop caring what the other kids think

Last week I happened upon the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. To be honest it’s more like a museum of nostalgia as the core audience seems to be thirtysomethings peering at their old toys in glass cases.

There were some children there too, playing at being giant vegetables in the Food Glorious Food exhibition and acting out their own Punch and Judy stories with the help of Mr and Mrs Punch puppets.

Continue reading


Deep sea creatures and volcanic vents…

Did you know that at least half the planet is covered in water that is more than 2 miles deep?  And that there are volcanic vents of the ocean floor? No me neither and frankly why would you?

I only know stuff like this because the second speaker at the London Diving Chambers’ lecture was Dr Jon Copley, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton whose research investigates lush colonies of deep-sea creatures living around volcanic vents on the ocean floor.

Jon shared findings and images from his expeditions thousands of meters under the sea.  Beneath the oceans lies an undiscovered world of mineral rich deep-sea vents, billowing out mineral laden ‘smoke’. The immediate areas around the vents, which significantly warm up the water, are teeming with marine life, including colonies of strange crabs and shrimps that have adapted to their unique environment of which we know so little about.

It’s an awesome thought that Jon and his team are the first people in the history of humanity to discover some of these things. There is no accurate map of 2/3 of the seabed, which means there is so much more to discover. There could be more deep-sea vents than anyone realises.

So little is known about these volcanic vents. They are shrouded in mystery. We don’t know if, and how they are interconnected, if and how currents run between them or if that has any significance. How does the vent activity and the activity of the animals that live nearby impact on other life in the sea and in turn the planet?

The excitement of the vent discovery has been compromised by plans by a number of nations to mine this mineral rich resource.

The mining will start in the near future. It is the equivalent of mining Yellowstone. Just because we can’t easily see the vents, does it make it OK to destroy them?

It makes me sad that every blog I write because of my awe and fascination with the underwater world ends with a warning that we are destroying the delicate balance of our oceans. I don’t think we are aware of the implications of our actions. I fear we may soon go past a point of no return. Then what?

To find out more about Jon and his teams work go to www.thesearethevoyages.net

Saving Nemo – film star fish the struggle for survival

Last Friday I joined a few hundred underwater fanatics at the Royal Geographical Society for the London Diving Chambers’ annual dive lecture in support of the Scuba Trust. Two specialists shared their passion for their underwater careers; John Boyle and Dr John Copley.

John Boyle; self-taught underwater film maker and owner of Shark Bay Films shared stories of his underwater film adventures. He encouraged us to take his lead and do what we love, and love what we do. Can’t argue with that – although he admitted doing what you love doesn’t always bring in the money and circumcision filming pays more. But that’s a different story.

As well as inspiring film footage John told us about the concept for his film ‘Saving Nemo’. A fishcumentary (invented word) to raise awareness about the increased demand for Nemos (or clown fish or anemone fish as they are also known). The market for these fish has increased massively after the Disney blockbuster Finding Nemo captured the hearts and minds of children across the globe and inspired them to find a Nemo of their own.

In Thailand the illegal Nemo trade is flourishing, putting the lives of these colourful fishy guys, and in turn the reefs they live on in peril. I’ve commented before on concerns about the destruction of our underwater ecosystems and the yet unrealised consequences that this may have on the health of our planet. Nemo farming adds to the picture of underwater destruction.

Disney objected to Shark Bay Films using the name ‘Nemo’ in the title of their Saving Nemo film. Disney forced Shark Bay Films to rename and edit Saving Nemo to remove all references to Nemo.  For a small operation like Shark Bay Films this was a considerable outlay.

Some may argue that Shark Bay Films were naive, perhaps foolish to call their film Saving Nemo. However, in my opinion Disney does have some responsibility in helping to protect the ecosystems that the success of their film has put at risk. The popularity of Finding Nemo has resulted in children across the world wanting their own Nemos. This demand has been met by illegal fishing and farming which is threatening the existence of this brightly coloured stripey species and the reefs they live on.  We are yet to realise the bigger impact this will have on our oceans and the planet.

So I think Disney should have been more gracious towards Saving Nemo, it was an opportunity for them to give something back to help a situation that they had an undeniable part in creating.

The Shark Bay Film production Saving Nemo is now more commonly known as Film star fish – the struggle for survival

Shame on you Disney.

Dr Jon Copley’s story to follow …..

Have an adventure – no refund required

I’ve been back from my Djibouti whale shark adventure for just over a week now.

If I had £1 for everyone that asked me where Djibouti was I would have approx £117. Djibouti is in North East Africa between Ethiopia and Somalia. An interesting place with a strong French influence remaining despite the country’s independence from France in 1977. It is now predominately a port hub with a large population of transient military personnel from a wide range of countries.

The whale sharks turn up in the Gulf of Tadjoura area from October to February. Little is known about them. My adventure was organised by the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles and Megaptera who run research projects into the whale shark population of Djibouti to increase our knowledge of these magnificent animals.

The Djibouti whale shark research programme began in 2006. The volunteers role is to snorkel with the sharks and support the boat teams to identify sharks by taking photos of the markings on their left and right sides. The markings are like a shark fingerprint and enable the team to identify the shark using image matching software. We also looked out for fish travelling with the shark, scars and distinctive markings and any other sharky observations to help form an overall  picture of shark behaviour.

Whale sharks can live for 150 years and are the world’s largest living shark and largest living fish. The largest one on record is 18 metres long and weighed 34 tons. They are big. They are kind of crazy looking, a dark body covered in spots and stripe patterns with a wide flat head and a huge mouth. We don’t know much about their reproduction habits, but we know they only reach sexual maturity at the ripe old age of 20-25 and females carry up to 300 fertilised eggs at any one time, all at different stages of development that hatch in the uterus – which to be honest seems like a rum deal.

They like warm and tropical temperate seas (who can blame them) and they are known to make trans–oceanic migrations showing up in certain places at certain times on the year when the zooplankton they eat abounds, including Ningaloo in North West Australia, Christmas Island, Belize and the Seychelles.

They have few natural predators. Humans are their biggest threat, we hunt them for their fins, and their flesh is sold in Asian restaurants as ‘Tofu Shark’. An important part of the research project is raising awareness to protect this fantastic creatures.

Research shows that the Djibouti whale sharks are mostly young males; teenagers measuring between 3.5 – 7metres in length. It was awesome to be in the water with such amazing animals, they move with such grace and fearlessness. They come so close and move so quietly they can sneak up on you if you are not paying attention. More than once I turned round to be staring straight into an enormous black gaping mouth. We were also privileged to see a whale shark glide over our heads on an early morning scuba dive making the sky go eerily dark for a few seconds.

So I’ve had an adventure. I’ve learnt a lot about the whale sharks.  Swimming with them was an unforgettable experience.

You can have an adventure too. Check out these sites for some ideas, and if these don’t do it for you – come up with your own adventure – but promise me you will do something.

Earthwatch Institute is an international non-profit organization that brings science to life for people concerned about the Earth’s future. www.earthwatch.org

African Impact offers volunteer work Africa, working holidays abroad and gap year travel in Africa. Our volunteer projects, expeditions and tours. www.africanimpact.com

The Great Orangutan Project aims to connect people with wildlife and nature in ways in which environmental, social and economic benefits are created www.orangutanproject.com

Photo credits to Husain Al Qallaf

If I had to live my life over

Today I stumbled across this inspirational piece; written by 85-year-old Nadine Stair.

If I had to live my life over

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances.

I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them.

In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

Nadine Stair, 85 years old.

Thank you Nadine for your wisdom and your inspiration. The challenge for the less-wise of us is to take your wisdom and make it our own; take more chances, have moment upon moment upon moment and dance barefoot amongst the daisies.

So team, if life is now, what chances will you take, what changes will you make to make a difference today?

Isles of Scilly – Food for the Soul

In July I spent a wonderful week on The Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of islands 28 miles off the southwest tip of Cornwall.

The Isles of Scilly are accessed by boat or helicopter from Penzance or the Sky Bus (believe me I saw it – aptly named) from several smaller UK airports.

We took the boat which in just under 3 hours transported us to a paradise that time forgot. The Isles of Scilly is like no place I’ve known, arriving is like absorbing a tonic, you feel instantly relaxed and strangely can only appear to operate in slow motion. If at all. Never have I experienced such capacity to simply nap at any given moment as when there.

We stayed on St Marys and visited the other islands; all of which had their own individual feel and element of magic.

Five of our days were spent diving some of the wrecks dotted around the islands, including The Colossus, a protected wreck which you dive complete with your own laminated guide-book. Which explained the giant copper spikes lined up menacingly along the sea bed – amongst other things. Back in the day, the tragedy of a shipwreck could be seen as some as a blessing; the Scillonians would forage for and trade debris, the agreed view was very much finders keepers, leaving no treasures for us.

Oh and of course I had my first seal diving experience. A whirlwind romance that left me bruised and breathless and wanting more.

When I write my book, I’m going to write it from The Isles of Scilly, somewhere overlooking the sea. I’m not sure when or what on, but I feel strangely contented knowing the location of my book writing!

The Isles of Scilly are a magical place; miles of white sandy beaches and acres of natural landscape exposed to the elements, with a rich and fascinating history packed with inspirational stories. There is something there that feeds your soul and fires your imagination. Disregard all the theories on how to develop creativity and innovation, and just spend a week on the Isles of Scilly, imagination flows naturally, imagination and pirates….

innovation and the rules of uncommon sense

On Friday I went to a lunchtime seminar with Heather Sim, founder and Chief Executive of Space Unlimited.

There is a lot of talk about innovation; anyone with half a brain knows that getting fresh perspectives, working in collaboration, sharing skills and taking risks will increase your chances of having your breakthrough ideas – no matter what industry or sector you work in. The challenge for many is stopping the chat and tacking action. Space Unlimited are taking action with great results.

Space Unlimited links young people, businesses and educators to facilitate creative thinking around an issue that the business would like a fresh perspective on. It’s a teenage innovation consultancy.

Space Unlimited’s work connects two fundamental beliefs:

1. That great innovation often comes from a beginner’s mind-set.

2. That successful people use their natural strengths to create value.

Since 2006 Space Unlimited have facilitated a range of projects from providing a new perspective from the Royal Opera House set design in Thurrock to KPMGs strategy to communicate with young people. Check out their website for more information and results.

The beauty of Space Unlimited is that it provides a business with a new burst of fresh creative thinking and insight and tools to practice innovation, it also provides young people with an opportunity to learn and develop and build confidence in their talents an education with a practical application. Space Unlimited adopts the rules of uncommon sense to their work.

The rules of uncommon sense

Collaborate naturally

Rethink risk and uncertainty

Be honest about outcomes

Reflect on value and value reflection

Keep the process visible

Question behaviours

In an uncertain world, one thing that is certain is that fresh thinking and new action are desperately needed to respond to the economic, social and environmental challenges we all face. If all organisations followed the rules of uncommon sense we would be much better equipped to meet these challenges.

I thought Heather was inspiring, most of all because  she believes in the value of Space Unlimited and she is taking action in driving this way of working forward and achieving results. A thousand good ideas are worthless unless you take action. Space Unlimited are walking the walk, working in a way that demonstrates and drives innovation, taking risks, learning and developing. Learn from them. Take action too. Today.