St Helena Online

Tag: swimming

Swimming with whale sharks – an island tradition

A swimmer with a whale shark off St Helena. Click the pic to see Julian Beard's video
A swimmer with a whale shark off St Helena. Click the pic to see Julian Beard’s video

Swimming with whale sharks is nothing new on St Helena. Fishermen used to have to fend them off, to avoid taking an unplanned dip alongside them, according to video-maker Julian Beard.

He used a high-tech Go Pro camera to record an encounter with five of the giant creatures off Jamestown – though only two feature in the video he has posted on YouTube.

The camera’s ultra-wide lens makes them appear far closer to the swimmers than they really were, says Julian.

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Click the pic to see Julian Beard’s whale shark video

“This is only my second time swimming with whale sharks,” says Julian, “but I saw them on numerous occasions during my childhood. I know loads of people who have been swimming with them for years.

“The last two years are the most I have ever seen: last year 17, this year 35 individuals.

“I remember talking to fishermen about how these giants have lifted the bows of their
boats out of the water as they rub themselves against the boats. Usually you would have to use an oar to push them away from the boat in fear of being flipped over.”

Whale sharks are harmless to humans, but even so, with adults reaching the size of a bus, you’d want to keep them at a safe distance from a small boat.

Scroll down for a gallery of images from Julian’s video

“Swimming with these gentle giants is an experiance of a lifetime,” says Julian. “You feel so tiny beside them as they glide along.

Click the pic to see Julian's video
Click the pic to see Julian’s video

“As long as you respect them they don’t mind you being there. If you start to splash around or jump into the water near them and act erratically they will swim off.

“At the end of the video you will see some tourists from another boat jumping into the water and splashing around, which scared the shark off.”

Julian has also published videos shot while motorcycling around the island, some of them with a large group of fellow bikers.

“I’m trying to compile some videos of activities that Saints get up to during their spare time,” he says. “Many of these activities are slowly dying out. For example, the motorcycle rides use to consist of 60 bikes or more; now they are down to a handful.

“People used to go down to the ocean after work daily and compete in water sports. Now barely anybody does this anymore.

“I’m trying to get a video of people sliding down the Ladder to get into town, which is now something rarely seen. I can remember 15 years ago watching loads of people slide down at the same time.”

  • An electronic tag attached to a whale shark – nicknamed Bella and thought to be pregnant – has enabled scientists to track her movements for several hundred kilometres. Click here to follow Bella’s journey. 

Click on the thumbnails below to see images from Julian Beard’s video

Saint is responsible for lunacy on the Falklands

No one can say that John Clifford is mad. When the certificates of lunacy are being handed out at Surf Bay in the Falklands on Saturday 23 June, John will not be receiving one.

As a St Helenian, he likes his sea warm. He knows that no one in their right mind would jump into the freezing waters of the Falklands in June, but as organiser of the annual Midwinter Swim he is happy to encourage people to do so.

And they do, in large numbers. “It does attract a fair attendance, both military and civilian,” says John. “Last year about 150 people took part, with probably twice that looking on.

“The description ‘swim’ is probably inaccurate: it is better described as a dip. No distance is required, just wet head to toe. More than that frankly would be dangerous: the water is about 4-5 Celsius, and just off the beach is a thick kelp bank.

“Last year one or two did go surfing for a short while.

“We do get a few fancy dressers and some other types of ‘dressers’, and usually a few mankinis.

“Afterwards we have some fire pots on the beach, and we sell soups and teas, but the crowd thins fairly quickly.” Funny, that.

John, who’s lived in the Falklands since the 1990s with wife Cherie, has organised the past two Midwinter Swims, having played a small part before that. The proceeds go to the sea cadets and the Seaman’s Mission.

“I have never done the swim,” he admits. “I feel that as principal organiser, I am punished enough already.  I think all of my kids have, though.”

All “swimmers” will receive certificates of lunacy, “signed” by governor Nigel Haywood.

Despite His Excellency braving horizontal rain to complete the Falklands Marathon in under four hours, he is thought unlikely to be seen plunging into the sea in midwinter (and certainly not in a mankini).

“I am grateful for the governor’s permission to append his (facsimile) signature on the certificates of lunacy,” says John, diplomatically. “I’m not going to scare him off with suggestions he should do it!”

  • The Outdoor Swimming Society gives this advice on jumping into very cold water: “Exhale as you jump in. In cold water the ribcage contracts, which leads many swimmers to feeling they can’t breathe. Shrieking, grunting and fwaw-fwaw-fwawing for your first strokes are perfectly natural accompaniments to a wild swim.”

Governor crosses line in Falklands Marathon – your turn, Mr Capes?
St Helena’s just not horrible enough for marathon runners

All set for Midwinter Swim 2012 – Juanita Brock
Midwinter Swim – pictures