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Sally the Stranded Seal

Rebecca, from Alderney, tells the story of when she happened upon a stranded seal...

The start of an adventure


As I ran along Braye Common the long green, meadow grass brushed against my hands. We were going rock-pooling at my favourite beach called Arch, on our island of Alderney.

We had buckets and spades and a lovely ice-cream from Rosa’s ice-cream van.

I crouched down to look at the bee that had just landed on a pyramidal orchid; its black and yellow stripes stood out vibrantly against the purple of the flower.

I turned around to see that my brother, sister and mum were just catching up. My thoughts drifted back to breakfast and hearing the report on the radio about last night’s high tide, the highest this year apparently.

“This is going to be a really good day for rock-pooling,” I told my sister.

We were now getting very close to the bottom of Fort Albert hill. It was quite a long hike to get up the hill and we stopped at the top to have a drink before heading down the narrow path.


We took some time to take in the spectacular view that was the reward of the climb. As I gazed down I could see all of the bird-like-boats swaying in the sparkling blue sea of Braye harbour.

“Come on slow-coach!” my brother shouted back to me as he ran giggling down the path.

I ran over to join my mum as she started the descent towards the campsite.

My brother and sister were jumping about excitedly as we reached them, eager to get to our destination.

As we neared the bottom of the path, we brushed our legs free of all the flower seeds we had collected along the way. My mum and I walked and chatted, enjoying the warm sunshine as the younger children ran ahead towards the campsite playground.

 


Picnic time

We walked beneath the cool stone arch and there in front of us lay my favourite place on Alderney, Arch beach.   Finally we were there.

 

My mum laid out a picnic blanket and sat down to watch my siblings splash and swim in the water.   I slipped off my blue trainers and white striped socks and sank my feet into the smooth, warm sand.   I smiled and started to do cartwheels and handstands along the beach.

I soon got very hot and decided to join my brother and sister in the nice, cool sea.

“Picnic time!” Mum shouted as we raced across the beach, our mouths watering with anticipation. We were really hungry after our long walk and Rosa’s ice-creams were a distant memory.

We ate cheese and ham sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, fresh lemonade and the best home grown juicy strawberries.

After a lovely picnic we thanked mum and decided to go and explore the rock-pools. We collected our buckets and walked towards the rocks.


An unexpected visitor

I clambered up a seaweed-covered slimy-looking rock and sat down waiting for my sister. We looked in the first rock pool – nothing; we looked in the next rock pool – nothing; but finally at the third rock pool we found a shrimp and a few sea anemones with their tentacles waving in the water.   I tickled the small red tentacles and they gripped around my finger; it felt a bit like Velcro.   I clambered over some large rocks to a long, shallow rock pool and was shocked by the sight that was in front of me.

There in the rock-pool was a huge seal making a moaning noise as it wriggled and turned, trying to find a way out, but the rocks were so high it couldn’t get free.

The poor thing looked so sad and lost.  “Go and get mum fast!” I shouted at my sister who had just climbed up and was peering into the rock pool, mesmerised by the sight of the seal.

“OK,” she said quickly and she climbed back down carefully and ran as fast as she could across the beach shouting ‘Mum, mum, mum!’ all the way.

Mum made her way up to the rock-pool, not really believing the story she had heard until she saw the sorry looking creature, huddled in the corner of the pool. Mum took one look at the poor thing and the predicament it was in and realised there was no easy way to help it out.

Feeling quite confused as to how a seal had managed to climb up to the rock-pool in the first place, she knew we would need more help than we could offer.

Calling for re-inforcements


“Right girls,” she said, “we are going to need to call in re-inforcements.   Whilst your brother and  I go and call the Wildlife Trust, can you run down to the sea and collect some buckets of water and gently empty them into the rock-pool? This poor thing has got itself all worked up trying to get out and is very hot and bothered.”

“Be careful on the rocks and DO NOT get too close.   Seals can give you a very nasty bite if they are frightened and this one looks pretty scared.”

“OK mum, we will be careful,” we replied, and off we dashed. After many trips to the sea and back, the pool finally had a good amount of water in it and the seal was starting to bob about and looked a bit happier.

We rested on the rocks and sat watching and waiting.  Shortly after, our mum and brother returned with the good news that help was on its way.

Not long after we heard a car pull up and saw a team from the Wildlife Trust heading down to the beach.   We waved them over frantically.


Time for a rescue!

After assessing the situation carefully, they decided that the safest way to help the seal would be to use a special sling to lift it out of the pool and down onto the beach.   It was going to be very tricky negotiating the rocks and the seal did not seem too keen on the idea either, but somehow they managed to slip the sling under the seal and with a small cry of protest, it was hoisted up and carried carefully down to the sand.

On the beach, a crowd had gathered as word of the seal’s dilemma had spread around the small community.   There was even a film crew recording the events.

After a quick check over with the Wildlife team, it was clear that the seal, a young female, was not injured and would be best released straight back into the sea.

It was thought that the inexperienced seal had probably got up to the pool on last night’s super high tide and had then become stranded as the tide went out.

I was asked to do a quick interview about my discovery of the seal in the rock-pool and just then I heard someone say ‘what a silly seal for getting stuck’ and I thought- she’s not silly but she certainly could be a Sally!

So I told everyone my tale of ‘Sally the stranded seal’.

And afterwards I helped to carry her down to the sea, where, after spending a few moments looking around, she shuffled off into the waves. We watched as she surfaced just off shore, looked back at us all, maybe to say Thanks, maybe out of curiosity at her audience and with a flash of grey, she was gone.


Rebecca Faulkner


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