Big Harcar Island

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Seahouses, England
Big Harcar Island - Seal on Big Harcar
Big Harcar Island - Seal swimming off Big Harcar
Big Harcar Island - Seal off Big Harcar
Big Harcar Island - Seal in the water off Big Harcar
Big Harcar Island - Seals off Big Harcar

Big Harcar Island Seahouses Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
473 reviews
Seals on Big Harcar Island Aug 12, 2016
Big Harcar is famous as the island where the paddle steamer ‘Forfarshire’ ran aground in 1838, leading to the rescue by Grace Darling and her father William, the lighthouse keeper on Longstone, about a mile away. Today though it is significant for the large seal population here. These are grey seals, and thousands live on the Farnes, having hundreds of pups here each autumn. An annual count has taken place each year, administered since 1970 by the National Trust – in 2013 (the last year for which I’ve been able to find figures) 1,575 pups were born on the Farne Islands in total.

If you want to see pups you need to come in the autumn, but our August visit gave us plenty of seal sightings and around Harcar the numbers were particularly strong, with quite a few swimming in the waters around our boat.

The National Trust website for the Farnes gives the following facts about the grey seals:

~ Males grow up to two metres in length and weigh 230kg. Their lifespan is 20-25 years.

~ Females grow about 180cm in length and weigh 150kg, with a lifespan of 30-35 years.

~ Grey seals feed on a wide variety of fish, squid, and octopus.

~ They spend 80% of their time below water, 20% on the surface breathing.

Historically the seals were both respected by the monks and hermits who lived here, and exploited by them. And not only by those living here, as they would regularly catch seals to send to their parent house in Durham. The seals were valued because of the oil that could be extracted from their carcasses, and also as a luxury food. In a rather nifty bit of thinking, as creatures of the sea, they were considered to count as fish and therefore could be eaten on a Friday when meat was forbidden.
Seal on Big Harcar
Seal in the water off Big Harcar
Seal off Big Harcar
Seals off Big Harcar
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photo by: Toonsarah