A blog post by Lady Felicity
If you have read any of our previous blog posts you will have noticed that I am usually the one to write about animals. If you have read my blog about whales (here) or Sharks (here), you will have likely realised that I am a bit lovingly obsessed and fascinated with the sea. Always have been.
I have always been likened to a mermaid, even by strangers on occasion. My long hair added to the fact I have always swum my own version of the butterfly stroke, which heightens the resemblance further. I loved swimming so much my family even had a pool installed in our garden when I was a kid. We lived on the outskirts of a city, far from the sea… yet the obsession was there anyway. Documentaries, films, anything about the sea, I couldn’t get enough.
My Mum can’t swim, so on every family holiday my Mum would watch like a hawk as my sister and I dragged our Dad into the sea.
Deeper. I always wanted to go deeper. Big waves? Even better!
I wanted to travel the world, see every country, its culture and wildlife and particularly its oceans and marine life. I was the only one in my family with this passion and it took Greg to really make it start to happen.
I am big on wildlife and conservation. Since I moved to the coast I see the sea almost every day. I walk on the beach and I usually end up finding and taking litter away with me. The days you find creatures (fish, dolphins, sharks, sea horses, jelly fish) washed up on the beach are sad. When those creatures are tangled up in nets and plastic rubbish… it’s actually gut wrenching for me.
I remember one day when I was leading a fossil tour along the beach with a school group. Usually something I thoroughly enjoy but on this morning some fisherman had been to work. They had caught small sharks and gutted them, throwing back the parts they didn’t want. Those ‘bits’ had washed onto my beach. Hundreds of shark heads and stringy bits of flesh littered the beach. It was everywhere. The kids ranged from fascinated to horrified. Some started trying to pick the bits up… It was horrible. If you did read my post about sharks (here) you will understand a bit more how truly devastating I found this.
I was desperate to make a difference. To stop, or at least improve, the levels of pollution finding its way into the worlds oceans, to clean up the sea and beaches for all that beautiful marine life that people rarely get to see (and as a result, it seems, so often don’t really care about). Surely if people saw, knew and understood they would care!?
It was during one of my (likely too many) passionate talks (ok, maybe rant is the right word) with Greg, after I had hauled up a particularly large amount of rubbish from the beach, that he suggested maybe he knew a way that we could make a bigger difference.
Greg is an entertainer. It is a world he knows and understands. It can also be a platform on occasion. Perhaps together we could come up with a show that educates while also entertaining.
Curios Aquatica was born:
Curios- linking to fossils and mythology. Before people knew what fossils were, collectors would sell them to tourists as curiosities. The ammonite, for example, was a prehistoric squid with a shell which people even now sometimes mistake for a fossilised snail shell. In Victorian times this curiosity was sold as a petrified snake, cursed by an abbess. It is also where we get one example of a fiji mermaid- the remains of a monkey combined with those of a fish. . . there are all sorts of fossils, myths and weird and wonderful things that fell under the banner of ‘curiosities’.
Aquatica- pretty obvious, ‘of the water’.
Curios Aquatica therefore- Mysteries of the Water. Perfect.
Next was to develop our show and its characters. Next came Fliss the Mermaid.
Fliss is not the ‘Disney princess’ style mermaid most people expect. This was very important to me. Fliss is real and in real life you don’t (or certainly shouldn’t!) approach a wild animal and assume it is your best friend. It may be beautiful, it may look cute and friendly, but that doesn’t mean it is safe and it certainly doesn’t mean it feels ok with you forcing an interaction onto it.
Fliss the mermaid represents marine life but also wildlife in general in my eyes.
Fliss cannot speak ‘human’. Greg has joked that this is due to her not wanting to learn lines for shows and events (also true!), but it is down to her being a wild animal. What animal (aside from some birds) can verbally speak to humans? Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate. If you have read my whale blog (here) you will already know how complex their brains are, that they have their own unique language just as evolved as ours. Doesn’t mean we can speak ‘whale’.
How many people have come into contact with other people that don’t speak the same language as them and yet, through gestures and expressions been able to understand each other anyway?
How many people have a dog or cat which they can’t speak with (ok, I know most owners speak to their pets anyway but I mean have a two way conversation with… I don’t count my cat meowing back!) and yet communicate with and understand anyway?
Animals communicate, it’s just we are usually not used to ‘listening’. If we learn their signals, indicators, habits, their ‘language’, we can better appreciate, understand and, in some cases, communicate with them.
This is part of what Fliss teaches people, with the help of Greg.
Fliss is of the sea. She can understand some things, many creatures can, but she needs understanding in return. Fliss is about linking humans and animals in a sympathetic way. She is beautiful and wild but still willing to interact with you if you respect her.
This was very much how I felt about the whales in Mexico. When people hunted the whales, they killed the people. Now that people go out in boats peacefully, the whales approach the boats and interact with people in a beautiful, peaceful way. It is an amazing experience and something to cherish. You compare that to dolphins and orcas forced to live in a tank and interact with you, or be starved and punished. . . who would want that kind of interaction!? Yet that is exactly what happens and what I am desperate to stop.
My thought is that people must just not realise that this is the reality. So I aim to educate them. Through Fliss. Through our shows. Through our travel documentaries. Any and every way I can, I will spread this message. Captivity, certainly for some species such as cetaceans, is torture and should be stopped.
This respect, understanding and appreciation for nature and wildlife is a big part of our message but there is more to it. There is the detrimental effect we are having on it with our pollution (both physical with plastic, oil, etc but some is noise pollution too), our over fishing and the way we feel towards some species.
An example of this is sharks. People fear them, eat them, use bits of them in ‘medicines’, there is very little respect for sharks. The closest most get is pure fear. It doesn’t help that things like the movie Jaws have made people so afraid of sharks. Again, if you read my shark blog you will know there is so much more to them than this poor reputation – an unfair one too which Greg makes clear in this short video:
It goes the other way too, sometimes people like an animal, yet still have no respect for it. For example there was a news story about a curious dolphin which approached some people paddling in the sea. The people lifted the dolphin from the water and passed it around so they could all get a ‘selfie picture’ with it. This killed the dolphin. Nature, animals, they not only deserve respect but need it too.
I hope that people on the whole are not evil, that these terrible things are usually done as a result of ignorance and by accident rather than due to malice, greed and soullessness.
So we created a school and scout show with Curios Aquatica. We take a beautiful set, we include puppets and magic, we have fun with the children but we also teach them what is wrong and get them thinking about ways to improve things.
We perform at events, interacting with the public while still encouraging people to think, learn and change the way they perhaps look and interact with the world around them.
We also fundraise for marine charities, helping those that are already trying to improve things and make a difference. Our current marine charity is The Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit. If you would like to support them, please click here to donate.
You may have noticed that there is not a lot of travel in this particular blog post as with Greg’s post about magic recently. We have plans to discuss more aspects of what we do between posts about our travels – especially as our travels are on pause until the world reopens. There will be more travel in next weeks blog but let us know whether you like these posts which take you into other aspects of our work.
Thanks for reading, stay safe and please help save the sea.