Next stop… the Sea!

Bowdleflode News No. 39 – August 2021
Baby rhino following its mother through the bush with it nose millimetres from her back leg.

A coral reef

In Sri Lanka buses are the most common mode of public transport. But over their operating lifetime, after thousands of trips and facilitating millions of commuters, the buses are decommissioned and sent to junkyards, where they decay and corrode under the elements. 

Now, however, the Sri Lankan government is giving them another lease of life by sinking them into the ocean to serve as fish-breeding sites. The Sri Lankan Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR), working with other government agencies, has, so far, sunk dozens of buses at three sites. The first 20 buses were sunk off the north east coast, at Trincomalee, last year – ferried on a naval ship to a spot about 3 miles offshore. The DFAR chose Galle in the south as the second site and the third is in Jaffna, in the island’s north.

Sri Lanka has a narrow continental shelf, with few coral reefs and there are very few sites around the island that facilitate fish breeding. The structure of a bus body is ideal for fish to aggregate in and around, especially after some time on the sea bed accumulating algae, barnacles and mollusks. The DFAR have already seen encouraging results on the first site which was started in November 2020 and they expect fast growing corals to start sprouting soon.

The buses are obtained for a token price from the Sri Lanka Transport Board, which stores hundreds of decommissioned buses in its depots. The DFAR has also sunk decommissioned fishing boats, and are trying to get more substantial structures such as train cars or vessels specifically designed for the sea. On land these structures are an eyesore, take up valuable space, and collect rainwater – becoming mosquito breeding grounds and contributing to the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Sinking them therefore has benefits beyond the ecological ones.

The sites were selected based on suitable water depth – sufficient sunlight is needed in order to promote growth of marine life, and wave patterns were also considered. The structures were also checked to ensure they were free of pollutants before being sunk.

A bus being lowered into the sea off Sri Lanka

Mysterious orcas spotted in Norway

Orcas at sea

For the first time ever, a match has been made between orcas photographed in Scotland and in Norway.

Three years ago, a pod of three orcas caused a stir when they were spotted just 300 metres away from Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust’s research yacht, as they had never been seen in Scottish waters before. Now, more recently, the same three orcas were seen once again in a larger pod, but this time in the waters off southern Norway – the first time a photographic match has been made between the two locations.

In early July, a citizen scientist spotted and photographed a pod of six orca in Børøyfjorden, and sent his images off to the Norwegian Orca Survey. Dr Eve Jourdain realised that they were unfamiliar individuals, based on the colouration on the animals’ backs – known as a saddle patch – which looked different to orcas normally seen around Norway. Following routine protocols, the Norwegian Catalogue was initially used to identify the orcas, but as expected no match was found. They were of course found through the Scottish Catalogue instead – the first photographic match between Norway and Scotland! The finding was then confirmed by researchers at the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and the authors of the Scottish Killer Whale Catalogue.

The identity of the pod has remained a mystery since their first sighting in Scotland, but this recent match highlights how much there still is to learn about the marine life.  The catalogues are an important resource for researchers to enable them to identify different individuals and the movements of them and their pods.

Red Octopus Captured on film

Baby rhino following its mother through the bush with it nose millimetres from her back leg.

The octopus on the banks of the Firth of Forth

Keeping with the marine theme in this newsletter, we share this amazing image of a curled red octopus in the Firth of the Forth in front on the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh, captured by Ditte Solgaard Dunn whilst out for an evening dip with her children.

The incredible picture shows the vibrant eight-limbed mollusk appearing to be washed up on the stony shore, glowing in the dusky sunlight, in front of the Forth Rail Bridge. A video was also captured showing the octopus slowly moving around on the pebbles before the photographer and her children helped it back into the sea. The octopus is shown changing colour from red to an almost translucent coral as it glides along with its tentacles streamlined behind.

The family enjoy swimming in the sea in South Queensferry where they live, exploring the coastline for sea creatures.  Crabs, jellyfish and fish are often spotted, but this is the first time they’ve come across an octopus. He was helped back into the sea with the aid of a swim shoe to gently tease him back to deeper waters.

More and more octopus and squid are migrating north with warmer temperatures, but are rarely spotted beyond the English channel.

Click on the photo to see the video footage

Bowdleflode of the Month



Created by Nikita, aged 8 from Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, Elstree, UK

DRAPYTHOMEON is a reptile made up from a dragon, python and chameleon. They originate from the Himalayan mountain peaks and survive off seeds, insects, nuts, leaves and the occasional poacher. They can be fierce creatures when provoked or disturbed.⠀

Thank you Nikita for your wonderful creation! ? ?