Wednesday 13th May
We were enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, the occasional wispy clouds above the outer isles and the early morning song of the sky larks. But as the wind picked up so did the watery white horses. We persisted with the watch from our exposed and blustery observation point for most of the morning. It was disappointing to have no sightings after the excitement of the last few days. The wind eventually blew so hard that it was impossible to hold the binoculars in place! So we packed up, jumped in the car and headed north – to the point where we had spotted a navy ship patrolling off the coast.
A short time later we were on the headland at the entrance to stunning Loch Ewe. Sitting at the historic and derelict first world war gunning post we watched the modern day forces in action. As part of exercise Joint Warrior, navy vessels had ‘secured’ the mouth of the loch, jet skis were tightly circling and patrolling their ships and a helicopter and a hercules repeatedly flew just above us.
Joint Warrior is a major international exercise involving all three UK forces and 12 invited NATO and Allied Nations. Up to 85 aircraft, 22 ships and 3 submarines, as well as landing units, operate from various bases around the UK. The maritime operations being conducted here - off the north and west coasts of Scotland. The exercise scenario involves three sovereign nations, disputed territory and a state-sponsored terrorist movement. It develops over 2 weeks – and these exercises have been going on since the 1960s.
WDCS continues to believe that, the host nation - the UK - at least should conduct a full and transparent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all activities involved in this major (and regularly occurring) exercise. This should include all those exercises that have occurred over the last 40+ years and will no doubt continue for decades to come. The US Navy is currently in the process of conducting detailed and transparent EIAs for all of it’s domestic exercise areas, and we should follow suit.
We’d been watching the exercise activities for some time from our headland vista, when the sea spray of waves off the hatch of a submarine, barely visible at the surface and just out of reach, caught us by surprise. It was about this time when two very happy day trippers approached us. They excitedly shared with us that there was an otter in the kelpy bay down beside us! For twenty minutes or more we sat on a rocky outcrop overlooking the bay and enjoyed watching the otter diving and foraging. He climbed out of the sparkly choppy water onto the rocky shoreline and proceeded to eat his freshly caught lunch! He then slunk deftly back into water amongst the swaying kelp - unaware of our presence and seemingly unaware of the exercise activities going on around him. An unexpected and very welcome twist to the day!
Wednesday 13th May