Wildlife off the coast of Arran
By Felicity Inkpen
A benefit of his posse of seals is that they eat Andre’s main adversary: the jellyfish. There are only two species of stinging jellyfish around the coast of Arran: the blue jellyfish has a sting like a nettle, but the lion’s mane jellyfish sting can give more than seven hours of pain.
“So far, I have caught one blue jellyfish sting across the face. It actually wasn’t that bad, though that may have been because my face was numb with cold.”
Other jellyfish, Andre has been happier to see, including the sea gooseberry jellyfish:
“I giggle to myself, feeling like I am going through a gooseberry patch whenever I swim amongst them”
Alongside the sea-gooseberries, sea comb jellyfish have also been visible in abundance: These jellyfish, roughly 6cm in length, phosphoresce – give off light that they generate themselves
“Sea comb jellyfish are like exciting landing strip lights, directing me onwards.”
Other supportive marine organisms include a host of the common edible crab.
“When I was swimming above the crabs, they sensed danger and raised their pincers to attack, but from above it looked to me like they were waving and cheering me on. It was quite motivating!”
Around the south coast of Arran, on his fourth day in the water, Andre met an altogether more elusive habitant of the sea.
“Out of the gloom appeared the distinctive triangular fin shape of a shark. Fortunately for me, it was a foot-long dogfish, entirely unbothered by my presence.”
Throughout, there have been scatterings of starfish, sea urchins, and a barrel jellyfish the size of a car tyre. The flora has been just as stunning as the fauna. Andre has swum through beautiful sea grasses and kelp forests. According to Andre, “These have been possible thanks to extensive marine protected areas around Arran.”
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Felicity Inkpen is Andre's friend, a keen swimmer herself, and an artist and writer based in Edinburgh, UK.