A journey around the British Isles discovering the extraordinary lives of these secretive mammals.
The Atlantic grey seal is globally rare – there are fewer grey seals in the world than African elephants – and Britain hosts forty per cent of this world population.
Over the course of a year in their lives, Susan Richardson comes to know a colony of seals, watching as it is hit by storms in the autumn pupping season, experiencing sociable winter haul-outs and sympathising as the colony scratch and fidget through their annual moult. Several months later, she nurtures a connection with three cow seals who linger on the beach long after the rest have dispersed to their summer feeding grounds. Her engagement with the seals' lives unfolds against the backdrop of other seasonal observations: adders sliding sidelong from hibernation, choughs foraging for beetles among spring squill and thrift, compass jellyfish navigating the bafflement of waves. Though loss, both personal and ecological, is a recurring theme, the story is a hopeful one, bursting with new life.
Susan Richardson is a writer, performer and educator whose most recent book, Words the Turtle Taught Me, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. In addition to her recent Marine Conservation Society residency, Susan is currently writer-in-residence both with the global animal welfare initiative, World Animal Day, and the British Animal Studies Network, facilitated by the University of Strathclyde.
"Cut and precise, archaic and innovative, transcendent and in-the-moment, [Susan Richardson] sees the life of the sea as a mirror of ourselves, and vice versa: always changing, always the same [...] Vital, glorious and salutary"
– Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan
"[Richardson] writes in prehensile language, capable of grasping something vast, ancient, chthonic: the Earth in must."
– Jay Griffiths, author of Wild
"[Richardson] shows how art and writing can furnish both beautiful and challenging reflections on our relationship with animals [...] Precise and playful; rhapsodic and rebellious"
– Andy Brown
– Margaret Elphinstone
"Richardson's voice swoops – passionate, ribald, funny, fierce – taking you up, on exhilarating flight, out from the cage of the everyday mind."
– Eleanor O'Hanlon, author of Eyes of the Wild
"[Richardson] balances observation with "unseeing", science with shamanism and myth"
– Chris Kinsey
"Susan Richardson beautifully marries the landscape of the polar regions with their – and her own – emotional topography."
– Sara Wheeler