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Whale watching – an overwhelming experience

This is the last blog on a Canadian topic – promise!

It was equally hot in Nova Scotia as it was here in late July and early August, with Government health warnings issued that reminded people about the need for shade and water, and not over exerting. Fortunately we were never far from the coast, where there was a bit of a breeze. The only time we put on sweaters was when we went whale watching, and what an experience that was. Four humpback whales ducking and diving and waving their dorsal fins high in the air, all within feet of the comparatively tiny boat.

Two previous whale watching cruises in Iceland had only produced distant grey lumps that we were assured were Minke whales, but this time it was the real thing as the four leviathans circled the boat, raising their huge jaws out of the water and splashing the unwary onlookers. It was an unforgettable sight.

In the middle of this 20 minute display, I was suddenly struck with the thought about what might happen if a whale struck the boat as they come so close, and so whilst holding on for dear life as the boat pitched and rolled, I asked the guide. She said the adults never do, and that their guidance systems are so good that they can come very close and then suddenly slip under the boat only to re-appear feet away on the other side.

Readers, I guess that you are by now thinking ‘so where’s the safeguarding link here?’ So it’s about near misses. What hospitals sometimes call ‘should never happen’ moments, when a critical error or a major incident threatens organisational stability and pushes you off course. When the circumstances appear about to overwhelm you, and you can’t rely on any superior radar guidance system on the part of what’s coming your way to help you out by avoiding the seeming inevitable collision.

The safeguarding landscape is littered with reports about what has gone wrong in the past, resulting in the deaths of children whose names we may recall and vulnerable adults who are often more anonymous to us. For each of these there are also many less publicised learning reports about where a personal tragedy or other critical incident was averted sometimes at the last moment, when someone realised what was going on and took action. Our job as safeguarders is to be ever alert to the potentially unstoppable force that may be heading our way.

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