30 August 2010
Wake up, work, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.
Wake up, work, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.
Wake up, work, get home, dinner, can’t be bothered going to the gym, sleep.
Etc etc etc.
And so the days continue, bored and totally lost of focus, excitement, dedication and purpose. In a city like London, it is so easy to get lost in the crowd, be just a nameless face. Pessimism and negativity towards humanity and their effects on the planet had set in, however truthfully, I was not doing much to help either. What I take with me, apart from all the amazing experiences mentioned above through out the years, is a sense of purpose and hope. I have seen first hand that the world could just stand a chance, because there ARE people that care out there. I had forgotten to believe this. And to meet two of these people, Joan and Andjin makes it a real and inescapable fact. How inspiring! I sincerely thank you for this. Keep up the amazing work.
Wake up, teach my class and spread the word, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.
Wake up, continue to spread the word, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.
Wake up, watch the kids spread the word, get home, dinner, still can’t be bothered going to the gym, sleep.
Etc etc etc.
As I sit here, Sunday morning, the morning of our departure, I try and write. I sit here drawing a blank; a quite literal lack of words. For everyone that knows me or has met me can appreciate that my silence is as rare and, more importantly, peaceful as a blue moon. The town, the people, the animals, the adventures, and the new family I have made over the past week have imprinted upon me something that I cannot express in the little time I allowed myself to process this most life changing of experiences. Hopefully, when I look back at my life in the coming few years, the gravity of my time here can be quantifiable. However, until then, my reticence will have to make due.
Cheers to the Dolphins of Greece and all of the people who live and work to preserve them. You passion is unrivalled.
29 August 2010
28 August 2010
Thank you very much for a lovely time, I really enjoyed myself, especially seeing the dolphins. I hope all your projects continue to flourish and may well see you again in the future.
Grazie per la pazienza e per il coraggio che avete nel portare avanti una strenua e infinita lotta contro coloro che non capiscono l’importanza di un ecosistema integro e perfetto. Grazie per la disponibilità e l’impegno che dimostrate per noi volontari, che possiamo essere dei veri piantagrane. Grazie per averci offerto questa possibilità che, vi assicuro, è stata fantastica. Quindi grazie davvero per tutta l’umanità che ci avete dimostrato, per la gentilezza, la preparazione e soprattutto la meravigliosa barca. Aggiungo un 'ciao mamma!' per Philippa, che si è rivelata un’ottima e paziente conversatrice e un’ottimista sorridente anche alle 6 e mezza di mattina. E ringrazio moltissimo Silvia per il tuo meraviglioso accento italiano, che mi ha permesso di capire ogni singola parola che pronunciavi, il che non è poco. Grazie perché tramite la tua straordinaria competenza e l’ardore che infondi in ogni spiegazione mi hai resa ancora più curiosa nei confronti non solo dei delfini, ma dell’intero ecosistema marino. Abbracci strettissimi a tutto lo staff.
22 August 2010
The work you do is great. Thank you so much for teaching me more about dolphins than I could ever read about in a book. I going home and educating my family about how to ask questions at restaurants, and how to buy fish. I had a fantastic time, way to short though. Thank you for stopping and picking up the garbage in the cove. Every little bit helps, and just may be other people will get the message! Joan, I am going to miss your humour and your smile. Keep doing what you’re doing. People like you are what makes such a difference in the world. Keep smiling… I will be back some day, hopefully next year. I hope to see you again. Andjin, thank you for the Dutch humour and patience with all of us! Don’t ever give up. You can reach your dream!
What should I say… time with you and the beautiful dolphins was just too short! I learned, enjoyed and laughed a lot! Since I had absolutely no expectations and simply wanted to do something meaningful during my vacation, I was overwhelmed by everything that we experienced together. The field work was only part of this journey in the cetacean world. I am so grateful that you also introduced to us many issues of the global fishing industry and… made me think… made me reflect on my consumption behaviour… convinced me that I can also react to all the problems in the marine ecosystems worldwide. THANK YOU! I am so happy to have met you and been part of this project! Looking forward to future meetings and to working on all ideas we had during dinners and café time! Andjin, thanks for your jokes and your patience with all of us during the cropping time!
Thanks to you, I had a very good time in Vonitsa! Of course, it’s first time to see wild dolphins for me. So I was really excited about it. In addition, you introduced to me some issues on global fishing industry. I know we Japanese also have much to do with these problem. So when I go back to Japan, I must study and learn more about the cetacean ecosystem, the issue of fishing and, of course, the argument between Japanese government and IWC. I will be a doctor and as such my work will be saving people. But it’s the people that cause environmental problems. So I think it’s very important to have a passionate concern for both, people and environment. I want to be a doctor who can cure not only people but also the Earth! It was so great talking with you! I will miss you! Joan, when I meet you again, I will definitely be able to understand your jokes! (I must study English). I promise I will give you a ride on a yacht when you come to Japan! Please do not worry about our three kinds of Japanese alphabet. Andjin, thank you for taking care of me! I will check my quarters and remember to drink water regularly even when I go back to Japan. When you come to Japan in the future, please let me know! I will probably be around Tokyo, so I can show you around in gratitude!
I cannot begin to thank you for enriching my life. I was so moved by the beauty of the sea, the charming villages and the magic of the dolphins. What a gift you gave me. Your patience, teaching skills and knowledge are impeccable. The daily lectures and casual conversations, at the dinner table, truly opened my eyes to how important preserving all life is. It is so easy to believe that we, as people, are not damaging the sea because we visually can not see what goes on underneath. Your teaching methods were kind and you showed much patience in helping me understand. I can’t even imagine the self sacrifice, which comes with your kind of work, you are admirable. My wish is that more people cared liked you do. Andjin, thank you so much for your kindness and patience in assuring a successful project. You took extract time to assure I understood the logistics, and many other aspects of the project.
This has been perhaps one of the best animal experiences I have ever had in my life. I do not want it to be over! I have been very impressed with all you have done to organize and manage this project. Everything I have witnessed has been, in my opinion, very well documented and particularly unbiased in terms of how you gather data, the level of detail and care taken to ensure proper protocols, procedures, etc. In addition, you have both been excellent hosts and given us all good opportunities to enjoy ourselves and have some fun at your expense. The food has been delicious and healthy. I must also say that I was exceptionally impressed with how informative the information was prior to arriving in order to prepare us for a great project. Thanks for answering all my questions – there were many, no?. Finally, thanks for using your fantastic experience and talents to help our world and these wonderful creatures. This is very selfless of you both! That is a dedication that I can now appreciate much more thoughtfully and empathetically. I have great respect for both of you but particularly you, Joan, because I totally understand and appreciate your guidance to all of us. I think you might see me again! Ciao!
14 August 2010
Tous mes remerciements pour cette semaine de decouverte a Tethys et de leur impressionnant travail de fond pour la connaissance des dauphins, avec Silvia et Philippa qui sont d’une extreme gentillesse et d’une tres grande disponibilite. Je remercie egalement Giovanni pour sa gentillesse, pour ses explications et sa facilite a rendre son travail accessible a des personnes non professionnelles. Le travail effectue sur des centaines de photos pour la reconnaissance de dauphins deja repertories merite le respect. Cette semaine a ete pour moi exceptionnelle du point de vue de la connaissance et d’un point de vue humain. Merci de la part des generations futures qui benficieront de ce travail magnifique.
I am hoping to study for a degree in Marine Biology next year so was looking to gain some experience in how a scientific research project of this kind is carried out. Aside from that, spending time in a beautiful village and the chance to see dolphins in the wild was of course a major attraction. I am pleased to say that what I have experienced here has far exceeded my expectations in so many ways. The team here are so friendly, extremely knowledgable, and their enthusiasm for protecting the future of these beautiful creatures and their home is nothing short of infectious. I have learned so much in just a week, and thanks to the researchers and fellow volunteers, had a fantastic time doing so. I’ve had a truly unforgettable experience and seen such beauty. Thank you.
I should say I came to spend this week to Galaxidi to have a closer approach to dolphins, learn about them as much as possible and experience their wild life. I absolutely had all that, as we had the opportunity to share amazing sightings and lots of explanations. I am impressed by the work of Tethys, the amount of photos and data collected to be analysed is immense and is only useful with a systematic organised way of looking at it, as yours. In addition to all that, I really thank you for going one step further and sharing with us your concerns about world wide ecosystems, from a point of view that is looking for real changes and real solutions. It has been interesting and very enriching. And of course, congratulations for a fantastic organization, and thank you so much for having treated us with so much care. Good luck on your next steps on this quite new project, and lots of courage for your new projects and lobbying campaigns that will be coming. I hope you keep me updated on your fantastic work, and any time you come to Barcelona let me know!
13 August 2010
On his celebratory feast day, 10th August, Saint Lawrence did indeed come through for the Tethys research team in the Gulf of Corinth, who were stunned to silence with perhaps the most jaw-dropping sighting of dolphins this year.
Having been teased with a micro-second sighting of a lone individual earlier in the morning, we prepared ourselves for a zero-dolphin day of searching and eventual return to base. It was around this time that Saint Lawrence decided to intervene - without prior notice or any clear indication of their presence, the research boat careered into a vast group of striped dolphins, including several mothers with newborn calves! Suddenly the thrill and excitement of the team was close to tangible. Surrounding the boat on all sides, at least eight mothers were escorting their uncoordinated young swimmers across the gulf, each newborn periodically leaping to the air in caudal-propelled excitement.
Although perhaps somewhat anthropomorphic, one felt a heart-warming sense of familiarity observing these infants gawkily mimicking their mothers' every move. From stationary surface resting, to subtle chin-raising and fin slaps, they adhered so closely to each gesture that I was reminded of my young nephews constantly at the side of my brother. Never have I been so overwhelmed with what must be a purely-female sense of maternal empathy, unscientifically categorising the level of 'cuteness' in between recordings of perhaps more academic behavioural and physiological data. Amongst a team of four women, the only man on board sighed with resignation as a chorus of "aww!"s filled the air each time the seemingly miniature calves nosed above the surface beside their mothers.
The sheer number of infants present within this large dolphin group was a conservation biologist's dream. The health and vivacity of this population is a gratifying sight to a team striving to understand and conserve such groups, although of course this is not the end of the story. The size and fragility of each young individual awakens one's senses to the dangers threatening current populations, and the importance of conservation research becomes abundantly clear.
We observed the group for over an hour, at times completely abandoning our data collection simply to absorb and appreciate the magic of being in close proximity to such a beautiful sight. With the engine turned low, the almost rhythmic, gentle beats of "pff...pff" as each individual surfaced for air was like therapeutic dolphin music echoing through me - the calming sounds of nature.
(Ionian Dolphin Project research assistant)
12 August 2010
Thank you so much for introducing me to the wonders of the Seas. After many years absence from Earthwatch travel, I chose this project to acquaint myself with marine wildlife and the issues that surround them. Our seas and oceans are a part of our planet that until recently I have had little time to explore. Your project has not only educated me on the issues in this breathtaking region but also serious issues worldwide. I will always be grateful for this. Your enthusiastic teaching and seeing firsthand your true passion for your dolphin family has been truly inspiring. As a professional who has spent a career working in science and with animals I want to thank you for being so thorough and presenting such thought provoking material for the group to mull over. Your professional and caring approach for your dolphin charges and other gulf wildlife residents reminds me why this planet does stand a chance. Over and above this, seeing the dolphins in the beauty of their home and spending time in this quaint village has not only been an awesome experience but every moment with you has been great fun. You are the best. Thanks.
Thank you for all of the amazing experiences here. The way I imagined it would be was not even close to the magic of seeing dolphins up close. I will always remember their acrobatic grace, curiosity, and spectacular leaps out of the water. I was so moved by their interest in us—gliding up to the bow to bow ride, coming up to the boat and turning to look up at us, poking their rostrum and eyes out of the water to see us better. Making eye contact with one of the dolphins will be one of my best memories. After all that humans have done, it was incredible to see their openness to us.
Joan, thank you for explaining some of the science behind the beauty. I appreciate your comprehensive approach to battling the many stressors on the dolphins. The evidence of the common dolphins’ disappearance from Kalamos is indescribably sad. I am sorry that I can only imagine what it was like from your descriptions of when they were so plentifiul, rather than being able to see it with my own eyes. I admire the intense passion you feel for your work, and, after this experience, I can understand it. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, giving us background with presentations and documentaries, and, most of all, giving us the opportunity to experience dolphins (and the mobula ray!) up close.
Panni, thank you for your gentle understanding. Your kindness and patience made me much less nervous on the boat and... in the kitchen! ☺. Thank you also to Andjin for the help with cooking dinner and dessert. And Posi, sweet soul that you are.
08 August 2010
My two weeks with the Ionian Dolphins project feel like a dream. Everything about the beautiful town of Galaxidi is calming and inviting. I was surprised how quickly I felt at home here even though everything about Greece is so completely foreign to me. It is truly an ideal destination that is untainted by mass tourism and the aesthetic defects of modern architecture. Once I thought that I had taken in all the beauty of the town, I was wisked away by Philippa, Silvia, and Stefano to the open sea surrounded by hazy mountains that once belonged to Greek gods and goddesses of legend. It makes sense that this divine place could be home to the most unreal creatures I have ever encountered. I am so lucky to have been able to see dolphins swimming, jumping, playing in the wild all while doing research that is meant to ensure this same freedom for their future. Every time that we saw dolphins I was enchanted and I hope that same feeling stays alive in other volunteers and observers of these amazing creatures. We must all do our part in ensuring that no generation will be deprived of the joy that a dolphin sighting brings. I want to thank Giovanni, Silvia, Philippa, and Stefano for an unforgettable and moving experience. You have taught me about the importance and urgency of marine issues not only in Europe, but across the globe. I will forever reevaluate my actions and their effects on all of earths ecosystems in hopes of minimizing my personal impact. I read the following quote years ago and feel like it encapsulates the theme of my experience:
"All know that the drop merges with the ocean but few know that the ocean merges with the drop"
This is a journal entry that I wrote my third day in Galaxidi... This trip has already been so clarifying and encouraging. When I told the head scientist, Giovanni, that I was a communications major because I was horrible at science but still wanted to help animals as my life work, he said “oh thank God, we need more communicators on our side, less scientists”. Hearing that from such a knowledgeable, experienced source was unbelievably encouraging, and for the first time made me feel confident that I am taking the path I need to be taking in order to fulfill my dreams. It is so inspiring to be surrounded by such intelligent, kind, experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated people as Silvia and Giovanni. They are so passionate about making a difference and work so hard at what they do. I am humbled and moved by their dedication and hard work. They are also some of the most inviting and welcoming people I have ever met. If only there were more people like them. And the dolphins, oh the dolphins. I cant even explain what it’s like to be in the middle of the sea surrounded by these majestic, playful, beautiful, ethereal creatures. How could nature have created such beauty. It’s the most perfect moment- surrounded by the huge, magical mountains, in the bluest, calmest, clearest water I have ever seen, with dolphins jumping and playing. How did I get so lucky?
Side note- I would like to express my gratitude to all the people working on this project for their kindness and for opening my eyes and teaching me so much. I was interested in every word you all said, and every lesson you had to teach. I only wish I could learn more from your ever-knowing minds. Your hospitality, kindness and patience was so appreciated. What your doing here is so profoundly important to the difficult task of saving this planet and I cannot tell you how deeply I respect you. Thank you.
As a zoology major, my dream is to work with animals. Being here in Greece, riding along side multiple dolphins brought my dream to reality. There is nothing better than cruising on the boat early in the morning with the sun rising over the exquisite horizon, knowing there are unlimited possibilities to observe marine wildlife in their natural surroundings. I had such an amazing time being part of a monumental cause to ensure dolphin habitats and populations are being conserved and that we are doing all we can to not only save our animals, but save our own home as well. This project made me think about my life and I am taking so much away to apply to my own life and to pass on to others! As an educator, I know this will be nothing but beneficial to myself, my students, my friends and my family.
05 August 2010
As time moves on, the memories of great experiences do not fade, but grow significantly more important in my life. I will leave Vonitsa and Dolphins of Greece with every confidence in the future. I firmly know that the impact of this past week will remain with me. I will always talk about the town, Joan and Panni, and of course and so importantly, the dolphins and their water habitats both here in Greece and globally. The passion and dedication to his work coupled with his deep devotion to these amazing sea mammals makes Joan stand out as a very special scientist. I have great respect for people who live their lives with these qualities. Personally, I have never really been very close to sea life, yet dolphins have intrigued me greatly. This week has facilitated change in my connection to the underwater world! Thank you!
Thank you for an amazing week in Vonitsa. A few things I will never forget .... Riding out in the boat early in the morning with the mist still on the horizon and the sun pale and sparkling on the bay .... Watching the moon rise over the rocky hills to the east .... The diamond spray of dolphins jumping in the far distance ... The Dalmation pelican flying low, dragging its feet in the water .... The glossy arcs of the dolphins surfacing .... The sound of their breathing with the gulls crying ... slender terns flying over us ... Dolphins leaping, splashing, churning the water all around us .... I am sad to leave, but very grateful to Joan and Panni for all they’ve done. Joan ... I appreciate your dry sense of humor almost as much as your skill as a teacher. Your patience and clarity as well as your deep sense of commitment are inspiring. It was so enlightening to spend these days in your company and to learn a little bit about what it takes to do scientific research (not to mention how to make that great yogurt dish for the lamb kebabs.) Thank you for teaching me so much about this incredible place and the beautiful dolphins who live here. Panni .... thank you for sharing your warmth, enthusiasm, compassion and intelligence so generously. It’s been glorious.
This is our 5th visit to the Dolphins of Greece project and it was as amazing as ever. Watching dolphins calmly swimming, leaping out of the water, surface feeding, bow riding etc is so incredible even now – we doubt that we’d ever get tired of seeing it! Favourite moments include watching a group of dolphins close to the boat feeding gently, with dolphins all around us at various distances jumping and leaping excitedly; sitting with the boat engine turned off and listening to the dolphins blows, while swimming around us and feeding. Fortunately, we’re off to Ithaka for a couple of days and will be back for the next team to see lots more incredible behaviour. But the most amazing time has to be the time spent with the turtles! Thanks to Joan, Panni, Posi and the dolphins and turtles for such a great week – remember we would like some Common and Striped Dolphins in Kalamos next week!
Elaine and Richard (UK)
"Oh, I have had my moments, but if I had to do it over again I would have more of them—just moments, one after the other."
-- Nadine Stair
I have tried to live my life by this quote, appreciating the moments, as well as the broader picture, as I travel through life. This was never more true than this week as I collected observations as a traveler, dolphin watcher, lay-researcher and human being. I had many questions about what I saw and learned a great deal from Joan and Panni, both fantastic educators. I gathered inspired ideas about what I will bring back to share with my students, colleagues, family and friends about this experience. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful researcher, as I helped to carefully observe and record vital data. I observed the way of life here in this corner of the world, one very different and yet beautifully similar to my own. However, most importantly, I have a string of memories- these moments- that will forever connect me to the dolphins and their habitat. From beauty we receive truth and clarity. The dolphins’ lives here are not unlike our own, forever linked to the world around us. Though I have to spin the globe to see Vonitsa from my home in New York City, the environmental impact IS in my backyard.
I leave here committed to spread the message about these beautiful creatures and the impact we have on them. My goal is that someday, the girls I teach will be able to come here to see a cleaner gulf, a thriving dolphin poulation, and a graphs with lines of disappearing creatures and clean waters heading in the right direction.
I have come to Greece to learn about dolphins and about our past connected to this historic land. I feel I will leave this country feeling a sense of ownership for the intertwined nature of our world- people, animals and ideas- in a way that I never would have imagined. With incredible gratitude,
04 August 2010
A very nice article featuring work by Tethys in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece, as well as an upcoming paper on compassionate feelings towards the sperm whales stranded in Italy in 2009:
The article, written by Rowan Hooper, appeared in the Japan Times.