AFC Marine Explorer Shares Experience with Irish Youth

Lorna Hamilton - AFC
October 11, 2013 share
Artists for Conservation

Whilst undertaking my scuba training course in Ireland, the new trainees were constantly reassured to the benefits of diving in our little country. They don't sound too alluring.....wet and windy conditions, fast flowing currents, icy cold temperatures, poor visibility (sometimes needing to be measured in inches rather than metres!), risk of separation from your buddy as well as the boat and the extra complication of having to dive in a dry suit! Really, as a novice diver these were all things I would rather have avoided than confront but we were assured if we could dive in these conditions we could confidently dive anywhere in the world.

When I received an invitation to attend the Cayman Island expedition in May, I jumped at the chance. My mind instantly imagined the warm, blue, clear waters of the Caribbean with its abundant sea life. I was excited to attend. The week was fabulous, it did not disappoint. I gathered over 2500 photos; of course some were a little blurry as I got rather over excited on occasions.

It is not my intention to speak about the trip despite how wonderful it was but to talk about what I have been doing since coming home. Ireland, being an island is surrounded by water; so it is not surprising that our industries and past-times involve the sea. Industrial and pleasure fishing, shipping, boating, kayaking, diving and swimming all have their place in Ireland's culture.

We have one aquarium in the North of Ireland which is on the shores of the world's first water turbine. The aquarium is visited by many schools each year and for many children it is an introduction to what creatures are resident in our seas. As with many countries, a lot depends on the individual school and the interest of the teacher. Upon my return I had the pleasure of going into one of our local schools to speak to over 60 children aged 6-7. They had just finished a project on the sea and were well versed on the creatures within. If the truth be told, I think they knew more than I did.

I showed them a number of slides of fish, corals and a Green Turtle, giving them a little information on each. They particularly liked the fact about a parrot fish excreting over a ton of sand each year. I also took all my equipment as well as a cylinder of air. They had great fun trying on each item and inflating and deflating the BCD (the jacket that keeps a diver afloat!) I demonstrated how each item worked and inadvertently released a considerable amount of Caribbean seawater on their floor! I then taught the children each of the diving signals; it was funny to see 60 children follow my lead! Each child was then given a sticker from Guy Harvey organisation; they were so delighted with them!

It was a pleasurable and beneficial trip and perhaps there may be a little marine biologist or conservationist of the future within the class. However, even if there isn't, it is important children learn the value of an environment particularly one which is not easily seen. Many times children rely on photographs, television or aquariums to experience such animals however an organisation in Ireland called Ulster Wildlife is addressing this issue. They have started a unique programme introducing children to the sea in organised snorkel days. I was so excited by this project, I decided to volunteer. The children aged from 8 to 16 are provided with wetsuits, snorkels and masks and are given the opportunity to snorkel in the sea.

We have one problem however; the challenging conditions I spoke about at the beginning are the very things that are holding the project back. Four times the event has been cancelled due to weather conditions; not a problem I could see happening in Cayman!

Written by Lorna Hamilton, AFC artist and marine explorer.

About Lorna Hamilton
Lorna Hamilton graduated from the University of Ulster in 1995 with BA (Hons) Fine Art; since graduating she has been practising as a full time artist from her studio in Co.Down.

She is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and Artist for Conservation. She has exhibited across the United States and England. Most notably she has exhibited in the prestigious ‘Birds in Art' Show, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum and was selected to be the cover artist for the 2008 Artists for Conservation Show book. In 2010, she held her first wildlife solo exhibition with sell out success followed by another sell out solo exhibition in 2012.

She has a passion for all wildlife and nature. She desires that her paintings would impact people spiritually, emotionally and educationally.

Lorna also has a keen interest in the marine environment and qualified as a scuba diver in 2012. Lorna dives regularly with her local club and seeks to explore the marine environments around the world. In May, 2013 Lorna was invited to be part of a marine expedition to the Cayman Islands to study the coral reefs with a particular interest in Green Turtles, an endangered species.( Please see weekly blog for more information on this project). Visit Lorna's AFC Website


About the AFC Marine Explorers Program

The AFC Marine Explorers Program brings together teams of professional artists, leading subject matter experts and university level students on a unique endeavor to study marine wildlife, their environments and the conservation issues that concern them. The program works to further AFC’s mission to support conservation and environmental education through art that celebrates nature. By providing AFC artists a unique and inspiring opportunity to travel with experts and students, and to engage in close and personal encounter with the subject of their art, AFC aims to increase portrayal of marine life, elevate the educational value of the artwork produced and empower participating professional-level artists as more effective ambassadors for conservation. 

About Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation funds inspired scientific research and innovative educational programs to encourage conservation and best management practices for sustainable marine environments. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will help ensure that future generation can enjoy and benefit from a naturally balance marine ecosystem where fish and other wildlife flourish. For more information, visit



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