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At Home in the Ocean

Ian Thomas is a diver, and is author of the 'Emily and her Pharaoh' books, which aim to spread the word about marine conservation. Read his incredible blog below about his fantastic 'day job'!

Where it began

I have to be one of the luckiest people alive.  Through my work I get to live my dream and there are not many people who can say that.  I work as a diver and have dived in all the oceans of the world, literally from the Arctic to the Antarctic.  So, how did I get involved with the underwater world?


Like many people, I started diving for fun.  I began on a cold winter night at a swimming pool in Exeter.  Initially I was frightened about putting my head underwater and breathing, feeling sure I would drown.  When I didn’t, I marveled at the weightless feeling and the magic of being in an alien world.


My first dive in the sea was even more amazing.  To start with I thought there was nothing but rock; then, as my eyes adjusted, the whole sea floor appeared to be moving.  Crabs, starfish, small inquisitive fish and a feeling of complete freedom made me almost light-headed.  That first dive was many, many years ago but I have never lost my awe at being surrounded by water and its wonderful inhabitants.

Incredible experiences


When I started diving for a living I was lucky enough to work on a number of film and TV projects.  This enabled me to dive with many different species of whale, big and small sharks and weird and wonderful creatures, all of which have increased my love of the oceans and whose interactions with them have inspired me. 

Among the more memorable encounters was one with a baby sperm whale, too young to have even developed teeth.  It gently took my arm in its mouth, much the way we would touch things with our hands to sense how it feels.  Its mother permitted this to go on for a minute or so and then very carefully got between her baby and me and gently guided the little one away.  Without a further look the whales were gone, but the memory will last a lifetime. 

I could talk all day about the wonderful encounters I have had, but I hope that example helps explain why I love the oceans so much.

Protecting the underwater world


Because I have been diving for so long I have seen many changes and experienced sad things like the dynamite bombing of coral reefs.  I have seen once pristine reefs reduced to rubble.  Not only is it killing reef systems, it is also destroying fish stocks as the majority of fish that are killed sink to the depths and are lost.  This leaves fishermen to catch smaller and smaller fish. 


I have always believed that the best way to protect the underwater world is to introduce people to this magical place and to help them understand how important it is, not just as a place to visit but also as a very important part of our own survival.  The problem is sometimes how to get this message across.

"Emily and her Pharoah"


When my stepdaughter was much younger than she is now, I used to tell her bedtime stories.  They were invariably tales of underwater adventure, with her as the heroine trying to help different creatures.  Before heading off on another diving expedition I promised to write her a story to make up for the time I was away. 

With a little prompting from my wife, that story became the first in the ‘Emily and her Pharaoh’ series, in which Emily is taken by a magical whale back in time to adventures in ancient Egypt.  That was the first of three stories in the series that have now been published.


My hope in writing these stories and including the conservation message is to bring the problems and challenges to the attention of children and young people in a way that is entertaining and informative.  I love telling stories and I feel my books are a natural progression from this.  In addition to the books, I give free school talks on creative writing.  These talks always include a large portion on my diving adventures and the beautiful but fragile underwater world.

How to help! 


So, what can you do to help?  The answer is that you can do a lot by doing only a little.  Put simply, do nothing to make things worse and try to do things to make things better.  Little things like dropping litter can cause problems.  Plastic bags blow around and often end up in rivers and the sea.  These bags kill fish and marine mammals.

As for trying to make things better, learn about the marine world.  There are many web pages that sensibly explain what is truly endangered.  Learn about things like sustainable fishing; tell your parents about it and why it’s so important to buy only certain types of fish.


Perhaps what I would encourage more than anything is for any of you who have the chance to go diving or snorkeling and see for yourself what amazing places the seas and oceans are.  I promise it will give you a lifetime of adventure and open up seven-tenths of our planet that will inspire you just as it has me.

Ian Thomas


Competition time!

Would you like to win a copy of the third book in the "Emily and her Pharaoh" series? Well now you can! Click here to see how!

We want you to tell us about an adventure that you'd like to take with Emily and her Pharaoh, so get your creative head on!


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