A SCOTTISH adventurer is seeking to become the first person in history to run, swim and cycle the length of the Outer Hebrides in a bid to safeguard of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Starting next week, James Armour plans to complete the 180-mile journey from Barra Head Lighthouse to the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse in under 48 hours.

It comes amidst concern that there are just eight killer whales left on the west coast and the mission is to raise awareness for the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust to continue their monitoring, educational and conservation work that underpins the future safeguarding of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The 26-year-old co-founder of a sustainability focussed podcast called SDG Talks is concerned that animals are facing numerous human driven pressures globally but also locally from warming seas, plastic pollution and net entanglement.

He is making his last minute preparations a matter of days after three whales died after being stranded at Findhorn Bay.

On the morning of Thursday, July 15, a member of the public found the three sowerby's dead at the Culbin Forest side of the bay.

The animals – which were between three and four metres in size – were all juvenile.

The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS) believes they were caught out by the tide and got trapped overnight.

Mariel ten Doeschate, a marine biologist with SMASS, said: "We think the animals were stranded on the high tide line.

"All three had come to the beach alive and got caught out by the tide.

Mr Armour, who lives in Oban, Argyll and Bute, has already raised £3,529 toward a £10,000 target to help the trust's battle to preserve the species.

He hopes their work will inform policy decisions at national level for the establishment of marine protected zones to safeguard what he refers to as "these amazing animals".

The Selkie effort involves 20 miles of swimming, 52 miles of running and 112 miles of cycling across the last archipelago before the Atlantic Ocean.

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He will attempt the challenge continuously, taking breaks only for food and water.

The route is named the Selkie, after the mythological seal-folk that could shed their seal skin to come on to land in human form.

James, who studied climate change at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, has been training around 15 hours per week and looked to ramp that up to between 25 and 30 hours a week.

As part of his training he has been chasing the MV Hallaig CalMac ferry from Sconser on the Isle of Skye over to the Isle of Raasay.

"This challenge spans the length of the Outer Hebrides and compares to a double marathon with an iron man length bike ride and channel-distance swim.

"I would like for this race to be an opportunity to give back to the conservation of these amazing species and our oceans, said Mr Armour, who is originally from Edinburgh.

"The Scottish isles are a beautiful place. The nature, wildlife and scenery are what make them incredibly special, and I want this race to be an opportunity to share the beauty of these islands and encourage all of us to connect with nature once again."

A support vehicle will be on hand during his running stages and a safety boat and a kayak will accompany him during his swimming stages.

The Isle of Raasay distillery is sponsoring his effort.

As well as donating to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, they will be serving up its long-awaited single malt whisky at The Selkie’s finish line at the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse, helping James warm his spirits after the challenge.

The latest report from Sea Watch Foundation, which organises the annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch event, shows a diverse range of marine mammals were spotted north of the border in 2020.

Orcas, minke whales. porpoises and various dolphins were among a number of marine mammal species seen by scientists and volunteers stationed around the Scottish coastline during the nine-day UK-wide survey, held between July 25 and August 2 last year.

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In all, 9,784 individual dolphins, whales and porpoises – collectively known as cetaceans – were recorded in 1,348 sightings across the UK.

Numbers were lower during the 2020 event than in the previous four years, but it is thought the results were affected by coronavirus restrictions.

A total of nine different cetacean species and four non-cetacean species were seen, the same numbers as reported in 2006 and 2009.

This compares to a low of eight species seen in 2007 and the all-time high of 13 witnessed in 2015.

In Scotland the greatest number of sightings were in the north-west, followed by the Inner Hebrides, then north-east Scotland and Shetland.

Harbour porpoises were the most commonly seen species across the UK, ranging from a single animal to groups of up to 30.

Common dolphins were the second most abundant species, including groups of up to 200 individuals.

Bottlenose dolphins came in at number three, followed by minke whales and then Risso’s dolphins.

All 19 sightings of orcas, also known as killer whales, were in Scotland, with areas in the far north the top spots for observing the giant predators.

The largest pod was made up of seven animals, seen off Unst in Shetland.