Before I left for my Earthwatch expedition, I received a farewell email from a friend saying that she hoped the Dolphins of Greece “far exceeded my expectations”. What I witnessed the first day out at sea was far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The dolphins were surrounding us as if to welcome us. They put on a beautiful performance!
I cried that day on the boat, and on all of our other sightings. Each time being struck by their magnificence. Seeing them in their natural environment can not compare to seeing them in an aquarium or show. In the Gulf, it is as if you are spying on them in their home. I so appreciate their hospitality!
Having the opportunity to work with and observe the research team was a unique one in many ways. Their passion and endless dedication to the animals is admirable and not often seen in many other work places. Despite the fact that they have been observing dolphins for many years, there is no mistaking the joy that overcomes them when a dolphin is “in sight”. One might think that they are seeing them for the very first time, just as the volunteers are.
Outside of the boat, their commitment to the project continues. The amount of time and energy it takes to input and analyze the data is incredible and very complex. Even with the assistance of volunteers like me, the project encompasses many factors that require ongoing attention. I am most struck by the struggles Tethys faces with gaining the necessary funding to keep the project going. It saddens me to see such efforts being made for such a worthwhile cause, with so little acknowledgement and support.
As a volunteer, I question how that might be able to change... (hmmm very very big question mark). Perhaps the most unique aspect of the research team was their ability to create a warm and fun loving environment (the food and wine helped a lot!). It was wonderful to have the chance to build relationships and learn a bit about their respective cultures and ways of life.
Tomorrow is my last day on the boat and I already feel a sense of sadness. This expereince has impacted me in a way that will be with me for always. Thanks to the dolphins, the town of Vonista and Joan, Eli and Giovanni for providing me with such an enriching and powerful experience.
Debbie, New Jersey
Dolphins of Greece