This edition of Armchair Travel is returning to the seas for a selection of my favourite films with an oceanic flavour. Many of these films are documentaries or dramas based on true events, though there are a few tales of thrilling adventure and suspense.
Losing Sight of Shore (2017)
A documentary account of the Coxless Crew, a team of women rowing 8000 miles unsupported across the Pacific Ocean from California and Australia. With pit-stops in Hawaii and Samoa, they spend around nine months at sea, overcoming extraordinary mental and physical hardship.
The Big Blue / Le Grand Bleu (1988)
A dramatised account of the friendship between two leading freedivers and their intense love of the ocean. A beautiful, dreamlike film about the raptures of the deep.
A Plastic Ocean (2016)
The documentary film that first brought awareness of widespread plastic contamination in the ocean, and the devastating consequences on the health of the ecosystem, to the wider public. An essential film everyone should see, and a launchpad to take action.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
Steve Murray plays an oceanographer bent on revenge against the mythical jaguar shark that ate his partner in this Wes Anderson comedy clearly inspired by the documentary films of Jacques Cousteau.
The Cove (2009)
An Oscar-winning documentary following activist Ric O’Barry as he details the practice of driven dolphin hunting in Taiji, Japan, alleged to kill more cetaceans than the well-known Antarctic whaling industry. It contains some brutal scenes, so may not be suitable for all audiences.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
I’m not sure who I’m in love with more; James Mason as brooding and mysterious Captain Nemo, or the Kraken that battles with the Nautilus. Ok, it’s the giant squid.
The Endless Summer (1966)
A classic surf documentary following three surfers as they travel the globe in search of the perfect wave. Locations visited include then-unknown breaks at Raglan, New Zealand, Cape St. Francis, South Africa, and Labadi, Ghana, as well as the big wave mecca of Hawaii’s North Shore.
Chasing Coral (2017)
A poignant record of the ecological collapse of a section of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in a coral bleaching event triggered by rising sea temperatures, including a painstakingly created time-lapse sequence.
End of the Line (2009)
The first documentary to focus on the impact of unsustainable pressure on global fisheries. Over a quarter of the world’s fish stocks are being exploited close to extinction, and a further 50% at close to their maximum capacity. Important viewing for everyone that chooses to eat fish.
The best film ever made, and the reason that I always hesitate for a moment before getting into the water while wild swimming. Even in the north of Scotland. Even in a freshwater loch.
Have you watched any of these films?
Which of your ocean favourites would you recommend for me?
I’d love to hear from you; let me know what you think in the comments.
Unlike the last couple of seasons, I’ve not travelled particularly far and wide in the last few months. Since returning from the Algarve at the beginning of November, I’ve been based in the UK, and making the most of the opportunity to get out and about while I look for work.
Over Christmas and New Year I headed north to Aberdeenshire to spend time with my family. The crisp, and clear weather was perfect for long walks along the coast, with the odd dip in the icy North Sea, and into the hills of the Angus glens. And short winter days quickly gave out to long dark nights, filled with stars and the arc of the Milky Way (although unfortunately no glimpse of an aurora), and a driftwood bonfire on the beach.
There was also enough time for a visit to Dundee to explore the new V&A museum, as well as some of my old favourite destinations in the city, like McManus Gallery, Clarke’s bakery and RRS Discovery.
Back in Bedfordshire, I got out and about in the Chilterns often, especially around Dunstable Downs and Ashridge Estate, for long walks, trail runs, and the pleasure of just spending time in the woods, watching the turn of the seasons.
What I’ve done
I set myself a challenge to start the year; undertaking to make time every day to get outside and do some kind of physical activity for Red January, and at the same time to fundraise for Mind, the mental health charity. I live with depression, and through the winter often find there can be more bad days than good, so try to take steps to manage my condition. I’m extremely pleased to say I met both of those goals, and discovered a real love for my weekly Parkrun at Rushmere Country Park at the same time.
In mid-January, I headed to Wiltshire, to the Team Rubicon UK HQ, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, on what was possibly the coldest night of the year to pitch a tent. Team Rubicon is a disaster response organisation, working around the world in communities devastated by natural disasters to aid in the immediate aftermath, and to help build resilience against future events. In an intense few days, I completed my basic induction to TRUK and the Domestic Operations training course. I’ve got a blog post coming soon about the experience, and what it might lead to next.
Unseasonably warm weather in late February (as much as 18C, just a week or so after the snow) made it easier to continue getting outside for runs and walks almost every day, and to try my hand at a new pastime; forest bathing, spending time immersing myself in the sights, sounds and smells of the woodland. It was the perfect way to remedy to a stressful couple of weeks while I moved into a new flat.
The first brimstone butterflies, nuthatches tapping on tree trunks, jays, hazel catkins bursting open, showers of hawthorn blossom, and the very first leaves. On warmer, damp evenings frogs and toads are on the move to the nearby pond, and I’ve been out with the local Toad Patrol group, rescuing amorous amphibians attempting to cross the road. Spring is well and truly on the way.
Film: The Little Prince, an excellent animation based on the classic children’s book (and standard text for studying French) by Antione de Saint-Exupéry, that explores the idea of wonder, exploration and excitement and how it changes as we grow older.
Clothing: I’m still rocking those toasty warm White Stuff flannel pyjamas at every opportunity, usually teamed with the biggest, softest blanket scarf that my sister got me for Christmas. It’s a combo that’s been especially welcome after REDJanuary runs in the rain and sleet.
Equipment: I picked up a new tent in preparation for the TGO Challenge in May. After researching various possibilities and budgets, I decided on the one-person Robens Starlight 1, which seemed ideal. Unfortunately, there was a manufacturing flaw in the tent delivered to me, so after a bit of faffing around trying to get a replacement, I’ve actually ended up with a Wild Country Zephyros 1. I’m hoping to get out soon to put it through its paces.
Health: I’ve started taking vitamin D supplements, which have been suggested to help lift a low mood at this time of year. We naturally get it from exposing our skin to sunlight, something that can be hard to come by in higher latitudes in winter.
Treats: My winter treat has been finding a cosy spot to curl up and read, along with a cheeky glass of amaretto and ice. I’ve also found a shot in a flask of coffee is lovely on a cold winter day on the coast (a tip from Ebby the kayaker on the Isle of Wight).
I’ve got a few things already planned for the spring, starting with my first experience of leading walking tours. I’ll be exploring trails in the South Downs National Park and surrounding areas, and sharing the experience with a group on a walking holiday.
Then the TGO Challenge is quickly approaching, with just over two months to train for a self-supported crossing of Scotland from the west coast to the east. I’m planning on a few nights of camping, testing out different food for the trek, packing and re-packing my backpack, plus plenty of walking days in preparation.
Thanks for following along with These Vagabond Shoes.
You can keep up to date with my travel and adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Here’s to fair seas and following winds in spring.
I’d love to hear about what you’ve been up to this season, or any plans you have for the season ahead.
Let me know in the comments below.
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