23 July 2009

A sighting, which was different from others

Back in 2007, I remember coming to the Amvrakikos Gulf with no previous experience. Thanks to the several months spent in the field, I am now more adept, but I still have to learn how to stand up on my own after a fall. While working in different study areas with my colleagues, I’ve got many chances of broadening my skills. Advise from my teachers Giovanni, Stefano and Joan allowed me to improve myself, but then the time arrives when one must fly away from the nest.

This time arrived earlier than I thought when Joan asked me to run a boat survey on my own. I felt fortunate to finally get such a nice opportunity and although my knees were shaking a bit, I felt joy.

On that morning, the Amvrakikos Gulf was completely flat so the circumstances were ideal. I decided to head towards the northwestern part of the Gulf. Everyone on board was eagerly scanning the sea surface until… out at 11! When the dolphins surfaced in the distance, my heart started to beat fiercely. But as we got closer I had become more focused on my several tasks, and oblivious of my initial excitement.

When I realized that there was a calf in the group, a smile appeared on my face. It is always a nice moment to see a tiny life following her mother with its clumsy surfacings. The dolphins, including the mother-calf pair, approached a fish farm. This was unexpected, because calves normally do not get close to the cages. At that moment, I realised that I wasn’t just an observer but I could understand what was going on and share this knowledge with my group of volunteers.

It was amazing to see things from another perspective compared to the sightings when I was acting as a research assistant, and someone else was in charge. Things that only a year ago appeared so overwhelmingly difficult, like driving the boat, taking good photos, recording the behaviour and directing people on board, all at once, now unfolded smoothly, and this gave me even more confidence and pleasure.

I still have a lot to learn in this field, but at least I could enjoy the feeling of being a leader for one day and experiencing how it feels to be responsible for a group of people on board, for all the data collection and for Joan’s ‘baby’, the inflatable.

In the end, everybody survived the first sighting with me. One volunteer, Jane, had a particularly good experience and her feelings came to surface after we moored the boat, back at the port, when I saw tears of joy in her eyes. Guys - it was a great experience for me, too! Thank you for being such a good team!

Zsuzsanna Pereszlényi

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