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2017 ORCA OceanWatch and exhibition launched at Portsmouth International Port

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Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress open the ORCA Oceanwatch displayLord Mayor and Lady Mayoress open the ORCA Oceanwatch display with Mike Sellers Port Director and Sally Hamilton ORCA  Director

A crucial and comprehensive survey of whales, dolphins and porpoises living in British and European seas was launched today at Portsmouth International Port (Wednesday 19 July), alongside a new marine conservation exhibition.

The setting was apt, with Portsmouth International Port increasingly known as a gateway to whale watching adventures. Ferries headed to Spain cross through one of the most diverse habitats on the planet for whales, dolphins and porpoises, the Bay of Biscay. Last summer passengers spotted breaching fin whales, which are the second largest animal in the world, as well as killer whales and thousands of dolphins.

ORCA, the Portsmouth based marine conservation charity, is hoping to build on the successes of the previous two ORCA OceanWatch events. Surveys are carried out by deck crews on commercial vessels leaving Portsmouth International Port and other UK ports, and allow ORCA to capture a critical snapshot of the different whales, dolphins and porpoises living in European waters.

The launch event inside the passenger terminal explained how data from almost 50 vessels will be used by ORCA to help shape UK and European marine conservation policy, giving a snap shot of the distribution of these beautiful marine mammals. Over recent weeks ORCA has been training ship’s crews how to identify and record different species. The survey also helps raise awareness of marine conservation issues for staff working in the industry, and allows them to actively contribute towards the protection of our seas.

At the same time a new summer exhibition was opened on the mezzanine floor of the terminal building at Portsmouth International Port. Designed for passengers and locals alike, the display panels and exhibits celebrate ORCA’s conservation work and explain how ‘citizen science’ is helping to protect cetaceans - the collective name given to wales, dolphins and porpoises.

This year’s ORCA OceanWatch will take place between 29th July and 6th August. Cruise ships and ferries leaving Portsmouth International Port will be taking part, with crews actively watching out for whales and dolphins every day. This year’s survey is expected to have a larger reach than ever before, with almost the entire UK ferry network involved. A number of cruise companies including Saga, Silversea and Carnival UK will also be recording data.

Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress webLord Mayor and Lady Mayoress sign and post their pledges with Port Director Mike Sellers

Brittany Ferries, which is based at Portsmouth International Port, has been working with ORCA for over a decade. The charity places Wildlife Officers on many of the crossings to Spain, which sail through the whale rich Bay of Biscay. Once again this year passengers traveling with Brittany Ferries will also be helping to spot marine mammals on the 24 hour cruises from Portsmouth to Bilbao or Santander.

Mike Sellers, Port Director at Portsmouth International Port, said: “The routes from Portsmouth to Northern Spain are renowned for whale watching, and can make the start and end of a holiday extra special. ORCA has worked hard to highlight the variety of species living in the waters around us, and we’re delighted that the data recorded from ships coming and going from Portsmouth International Port this summer will help with further important work.”

Sally Hamilton, ORCA Director said, “ORCA OceanWatch is one of the highlights of the calendar for all our partners, and we are incredibly grateful to those companies that have committed to supporting our work and helping this year’s programme to be the biggest yet. The data collected by crews this year will play a vital role in helping us to protect the stunning rang of whales, dolphins and porpoises seen across UK and European waters.”

Brittany Ferries runs regular Sea Safari whale watching mini cruises from Portsmouth International Port, accompanied by expert guides including TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham. The short breaks are just one example of Portsmouth being a gateway to new experiences, highlighted by this year’s #portsmouthtakesyouthere campaign.

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Second World War vessel that makes starring role in Dunkirk film is open to visitors

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ML1387 HMS Medusa web
ML1387 HMS Medusa, an affiliate of the National Museum of the Royal Navy

Second World War veteran vessel HMS ML 1387 which joins the cast in the summer’s blockbuster film, Dunkirk, will be alongside at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard on Sunday 23rd July so visitors can see, for free, where star Harry Styles appeared on screen.

Skipper Alan Watson and his crew spent three weeks filming the blockbuster during summer 2016 in Weymouth on the 72-foot boat and they even make an appearance.

Numerous film takes were recorded with two IMAX cameras, often in challenging circumstances at sea. Director Christopher Nolan was keen to get it right. Medusa added an authentic Second World War touch to the film and skipper Alan Watson and his fellow crew even make an appearance!

Film stars welcomed onboard include Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance. Of Harry Styles, most famous as a member of boy-band One Direction, Alan Watson said: “He was a very courteous, modest young man. He referred to me as Captain and politely asked to eat his stew having survived on sandwiches for days!

“For many Dunkirk is in black and white, this brings it into wide-screen colour. It was a lump in the throat moment being involved in the filming as it bought back memories of my Grandfather and his love of sailing.”

Film work is especially important to the Medusa Trust and the booking served as a tremendous financial boost this year. Alan primarily relies on charitable donations, film work and some commercial bookings to keep the vessel afloat at a cost of £20,000 per year. She is crewed entirely by volunteers and the trust is always on the look-out for additional deck hands.

HMS Medusa crew during filming of Dunkirk webHMS Medusa crew during filming of Dunkirk

Medusa, which is an affiliate of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, played a critical role at D-Day marking the entrance to a minefield which could only be cleared the night before by the minesweepers. She spent 36 hours steadfastly keeping to her location so others could transit safely on their way to the Normandy beaches.

She was one of almost 500 similar vessels entirely built of wood, and powered by diesel engines. They were not fast but had huge endurance travelling across the Atlantic in one go. The original concept was for them to be transported to where they were needed as deck cargo but soon they were making the passages themselves from the UK to the Mediterranean, West Indies, South Africa and the Far East but sometimes as far as New Zealand.

A major refit was mainly funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and carried out in conjunction with The Maritime Workshop of Gosport. This has provided an opportunity to young shipwrights to learn and practise traditional shipbuilding skills. Medusa was re-launched on 1 March 2010 and re-dedicated at a ceremony attended by HRH the Princess Royal on 21 October 2010.

Further information about Medusa and how to support her is available on http://www.hmsmedusa.org.uk/

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Portsmouth celebrating trio of Green Flag Awards

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Portsmouth City Council 2011Portsmouth residents have good reason to celebrate national Love Parks Week with the timely announcement that three of the city's parks have retained their green flag status.

Baffins Pond, Milton Park and Southsea Rock Gardens have all received a prestigious Green Flag Award which recognises well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces.

The news comes during Love Parks Week which began on 14 July and runs until 23 July and encourages people around the country to celebrate the reasons they love their parks.

Portsmouth City Council's parks team are visiting parks throughout the week asking people why they love their parks and taking photos to share on social media.

There is a lot to love about Portsmouth parks at the moment with new aviaries, birds and goats introduced to College Park; a new feature entrance to Victoria Park alongside the Catherine House development; the refurbishment of Victoria Park's new café; and the new urban meadows planted in various parks as well as other sites across the city.

Parks also continue to host a range of events from major festivals like Victorious and Mutiny, to free events such as Live at the Bandstand. Victoria Park is also set to hold a series of new events with an opera performance and family fun sessions to be announced soon.

Cllr Linda Symes, Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Sport, said: "I'm delighted three of our parks have achieved Green Flag Awards and hopefully we'll be able to add more to that in the coming years. Love Parks Week is a great initiative to raise awareness of the fantastic facilities we offer across the city, but I know that people in Portsmouth love their parks all year round.
We've got big open fields, smaller garden areas across the city and much-loved animals in both Victoria Park and College Park. It's that variety that people enjoy and encourages families to get outside and be active, and that's what we want to continue to build on."

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Butterfly house campaign extended

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Cumberland House web

A fundraising campaign for Portsmouth's new tropical butterfly house has been extended after a surge in pledges.

The new butterfly enclosure is due to open at Cumberland House natural history museum later this summer, following demolition of the old one.

To help fund the project, Portsmouth City Council launched an online crowdfunding campaign to raise more than £40,000. The campaign was due to end this month, but has now been extended to 20 August.

Anyone pledging more than £25 can have their name on a plaque in the new enclosure. A pledge of £100 earns a VIP event.

Cllr Linda Symes, the council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: "The new building is coming along really well and will open soon. Because the butterfly house has a special place in the hearts of many local people, we thought residents might like to contribute towards it and have their pledges recorded for posterity. 
The campaign has really taken off recently, with almost £12,500 pledged, so we thought we would extend it. As well as creating a lovely environment for butterflies and visitors, we're making the museum into a haven for British butterflies. 
Demolishing the old butterfly house has also opened up the rear of the building, showing how it was intended to look. We're also asking residents to suggest names for the new enclosure. Lots of schoolchildren visit the butterflies, so it would be a great project for a local school."

To succeed, the campaign has to reach its goal of £41,685 in pledges. If the total is not reached, then those who have pledged money will not have to contribute after all.

To find the Butterfly House Project fundraising page, put "butterfly" in the search box at www.spacehive.com

To find out more, or to make a suggestion for a name for the new enclosure, go to the Butterfly House - Cumberland House Museum page on Facebook.

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Emirates Spinnaker Tower invites guests to experience new Sky Garden

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Emirates Spinnaker Tower Sky Garden Panoramic web

Emirates Spinnaker Tower has revealed the striking transformation of its topmost view deck, which now houses a Sky Garden for guests to enjoy this summer. Set 110 metres above sea level, the botanical haven is open to the elements, inviting guests to feel the wind in their hair or the sun on their face as they recline and relax on a deck chair or bean bag. Carpeted in grass, guests can also appreciate the colourful sensory display created by a Living Wall made up of a variety of plants, including Petunias, Lavender, Black Dragon Wisteria and Star of Jasmine.

Tony Sammut, General Manager at Emirates Spinnaker Tower, commented: “Our Sky Garden is an exciting addition to the Tower experience, enabling guests to combine the idyllic Sky Garden surroundings with the opportunity to savour our stunning views. It provides yet another fantastic reason to visit.”

Emirates Spinnaker Tower Sky Garden 2 web

Soaring proudly above the city’s historic harbour, the 170 metre Emirates Spinnaker Tower is one of the South coast’s ‘must-see’ attractions. Three view decks provide a breath-taking 350 degree outlook, enveloping visitors with views stretching out for up to 23 miles, out across Portsmouth harbour, the south coast and beyond.

Emirates Spinnaker Tower is open daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm (excluding Christmas Day). See www.spinnakertower.co.uk or call 02392 857 520 to find out more.

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