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Dolphin City Part 1

I started working in Aberdeen in 2001. My role was to be the City Councils face of waste, recycling and litter, or Mr Clean and Green. At the time I was still living in Dalgety Bay by the Firth of Forth, about 100 miles to the south so I started taking the train.

This is a long journey but a stunning one as the line hugs the coast for much of the route. Passing along the cliffs north of Stonehaven a movement caught my eye. Three dark backs with tall dorsal fins broke the surface of the calm sea, Bottlenose Dolphins. My (strong – but admittedly ill advised) urge to pull the emergency stop was overcome as they disappeared from view. I was stunned, how could I be seeing one of the planets top species from a train whilst everyone else snoozed, read the Metro or generally tried to annoy the rest of the carriage with the crackle of headphones.

In my first 2 weeks in Aberdeen I saw dolphins from the train window 3 times.

After a couple of weeks I found a B&B (not an easy task in Aberdeen at the turn of the millennium) and on my first evening I walked to the cities beach, 2 miles of golden sand between the estuaries of the Rivers Dee and Don. I treated myself to a chip supper from the old Harry Ramsdens and sat on a bench overlooking the sea.
As the sun lowered in the sky behind me, children played on the beach, families headed to the amusements whilst narcissists others jogged, roller bladed or surfed. Out to sea 15 oil supply vessels were at anchor waiting to access the port, whilst the ferry to the Northern Isles left the harbour. Not a bad way to spend an evening after work! It got better, for suddenly 2 meters over out of the water was a dolphin, it was only a split second view and at first I did not believe it, however, it leaped again and it was not alone.


That night I spent 2 hours watching as twenty dolphins hunted in the bay, I could not believe what I was seeing. Behind me was the city, towering 1960s flats and the sound of roller coasters and amusements. In front, the oil industry with all its reds, yellows and black painted giant ships and all around me a buzz of people, and yet I sat alone watching dolphins hunt, knowing it seemed that everyone else was totally oblivious, all in their own worlds.

It is fair to say that this changed my life. From surveying dolphins on ferries to Shetland Orkney, the Faroes and Iceland, to spending 10 years working to connect people with the coast in my present role with the East Grampian Coastal Partnership. It also made me pick up my camera – but more of that next time.