29 July 2007

A special day at Kalamos

“Date 26th of July, time 8:17, seven people on board, starting point Episkopi, sea state 3” were the very first research data collected after two days of strong wind and rough sea. We decided to follow route B in the clockwise direction. This route passes south of the island of Kalamos.

After having checked the Mytikas fish farm, we started the survey. All eyes were scanning the irregular sea surface for dolphin fins. A large number of birds were following fishing boats as fishermen discarded fish bycatch at sea. One hour later big splashes attracted our attention; we approached carefully and we noticed the presence of seagulls inspecting the sea surface broken by large fish catching their prey. We started again our survey and a few minutes later a small zig-zag movement on the sea surface was detected. A swordfish! We were surprised about this event, as in the last years sightings of this species of fish have declined. Swordfish, tuna and common dolphins have become increasingly rare due to overfishing of their main prey. This encounter prompted us to restart the survey with more interest and attention.

After another two hours we stopped briefly in a nice village on the island of Kastos. Just before approaching the harbour, water turbolence and foam were seen: a fish school jumping out of the water. A school of small tuna about 50 cm long was chasing other fish during spectacular predatory events. Occasional races, jumps and rapid movements in a feeding franzy. In a few minutes the group dispersed and we were left with the emotion of a wonderful experience. During our coffee break we could feel the intense emotion of these encounters. Then the survey started again.

Annalise Petroselli and Silvia Bonizzoni

28 July 2007

Ionian Dolphin Project, 15-21 July 2007

Before I came to Kalamos, I did not really know what would wait there for me. And then, after a short trip on the inflatable, I saw it - a small village called Episkopi, with “our” base up on a hill. From the first moment, it looked comfortable to me. We got a quick tour through the house, interesting information and a really good dinner. So - the week could start. Early in the morning - breakfast. And then, right on the first day, we had our first sighting: we had the opportunity to see a swordfish and some tunas feeding at the surface. This was an exciting sight, but it should even get much better!!

Two days later, we (that means: Silvia, Annalise and five volunteers including myself) went near Lefkada - and on the way home there came the shout we have been waiting for: “dolphins in sight!”. Common Dolphins. I could see them, not far from us. Three adults and one juvenile. Silvia and Annalise started at once to do their work - our first sight!!! Exciting!

One got the NetPad (a palm-top computer), two others the equipment for timing respiration intervals. I was one of them ;-) Now we tried to find the difference between individual dolphins - something special on their fin - and focussed on one with a “notch” in it. To tell the truth, it wasn't very easy to follow one individual with the stop-watch. But we tried to do it as best as we could...

It was really amazing to see how they move, how elegant and smooth they slide into the water - come out again - start a new dive... You never know, what they will do next - a quick respiration, a long dive, a jump???

I cannot really tell why, but it is so satisfying to see them in their natural enviroment, to see how they interact and move... I still have the picture in my mind, when they were diving directly under our inflatable - so smooth and calm... You could see their colours, their eyes, their fins. It seemed like as if they knew, what we are doing - watching them. And they watched us as well. To follow one individual, to watch him and find out what he is doing - really fascinating and exciting!

That day got even more perfect as we saw another group of bottlenose dolphins, swimming near a fish farm. Two sightings in one day - we have been sooo lucky! And it was really great!

But not only the sightings made this week nearly perfect - almost evrything fitted together. Seven different people - everybody with other roots and expectations - but all being there for the same thing. Even though it was work, we had fun and a great time, and some really exciting days out at sea.

Thanks to everybody that made this project possible. And a lot of thanks to “our” researchers and to “OUR DOLPHINS”!!! ;)

Eva, Austria

24 July 2007

Dolphins of Greece, July 2007

I truly enjoyed my time at the Dolphins of Greece expedition in the Amvrakikos Gulf. I was impressed by the dedication of Giovanni, Joan and Susie to their research, the dolphins, education and to us the volunteers. The team provided us with an opportunity to fully participate in the process vs. just being observers. The most exciting and rewarding parts were being out on the boat and being part of the combined, orchestrated effort to efficiently and accurately record the data and then getting to come back in the afternoons and see what happens with all the pictures taken. Who knew each of the dolphins’ dorsal fins are so different?

The experience was powerful for me personally, as the last time I had really thought about science was in my high school biology class (more years ago than I will admit), and this gave me the rare and special opportunity to learn and be educated in a way that I otherwise would never experience. Giovanni, Joan and Susie took the time to impart their knowledge to us with lectures and videos giving us the great opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues in an intimate setting.

The icing on the cake was the beautiful setting of the gulf, from the sunrises and sunsets, being out on the water and getting the chance to jump in after a long hot day.

The experience was truly remarkable.

Jenny, USA