I have been to many different whale and dolphin projects around the world. This was the largest group I have experienced, and I must say that the crew really did an excellent job in getting 11 volunteers organized into working shifts and dividing all the tasks. As a scientist I know it is not easy to do your research and at the same time try to keep a group of non-scientists (the volunteers) happy. But you all Alessia, Enrico, Claudia, Adriana and captain Roberto always kept a happy smile, and kept your patience to explain everything to us. In particular, this crew did the best teaching job that I have encountered, giving lectures and continuous explanations about all the technical stuff about whales and dolphins. Roberto, I was amazed about your skill in manouvering the boat around whales and dolphins! Alessia, at your (young) age, you are an excellent Principal Investigator, always friendly and casual, never too bossy or overpowering, but totally in control. My congratulations. Keep up the good work and enthousiasm in the future, so that many people can learn about whales and dolphins from you. You are doing an excellent job.
Hello again! This was the second consecutive week I have been onboard the Pelagos and I can only add to what I wrote above for the first week. I was so happy that I spent two weeks with this wonderful research project. The first week was like a dry run (pun intended) where I got used to all of the conditions onboard a research vessel (not least, sea sickness which I am happy to report completely disappeared this week without the need of a patch!); how the shifts work, learning about cetacean biology and behaviour, and just getting to know the routines of the boat. This was all a fantastic experience but I feel that I got so much more out of the trip by staying an extra week. What was once new and a little strange became familiar and I felt that I could really participate in the research this time. As wonderful as it was to see these animals in their natural habitat I took just as much pleasure in the knowledge that in some small way I had contributed to the research and study of them. The highlight for me was taking the respiration patterns with my friends, Camilla and Roland, during the ‘days of the sperm whales’ when we must have made around 7 or 8 sightings of them. This was a very busy time and all of the researchers were under some stress to gather as much data as possible which only goes to underline how open and generous they were with their time. Even during this busy week when they were so busy they always had time explain what we were doing and to answer all of my (many!) questions. After such a busy few days we were so lucky to be rewarded by two fantastic presents from the sperm whales. The first occurred at the end one day when we made our last sighting and data collection. The sun was setting over the ocean and as the shimmering orange light slowly faded away we observed the whale for the final time. Everyone was silent and all we could hear was the blow of the whale and someone calling the respiration intervals (me!). When the whale finally dive it was a truly magical moment. The next day we were treated to a bit more excitement as we were witness to a spectacular breach of the sperm whale. A little tip to all future participants: when the sperm whale dives and you have finished taking your photos and videos, hang around for a few more seconds as it just might come rushing back up to the surface in an amazing display of power and grace. I have already given my thoughts last week on the crew but I would just like to mention the new addition this week. Adriana joined us and you could not wish to meet a friendlier, more open person. Thank you for all of the delicious meals you cooked and also for explaining so many things to me. Don’t forget to think of me when you see those things ‘bobbing up and down’ in the sea! So, what a fantastic 2 weeks! Thanks again to Roberto, Alessia, Enrico, Claudia, and Adriana and all of the people I met. Seeing amazing things is only half of what makes an unforgettable experience. The people you share the experience with is just as important and I feel really lucky in this regard. Good luck in the future, stay in touch and have a wonderful life.
Ciao ragazzi, equipaggio e ospiti. Ho passato una stupenda ed intensissima settimana, non avrei mai creduto di imparare così tante cose e vedere così tanti cetacei. E’ con il mio cuore in mano che scrivo queste righe perché significa che è il momento di lasciarsi. Ricordo tutte le vostre espressioni mentre abbiamo fatto il nostro primo avvistamento, ricordo tutti i bei momenti passati sul ponte e nei turni di notte. E’ stato bellissimo condividere con voi tutto questo. Un’esperienza che mi ha segnato il cuore indelebilmente per tutta la vita e che tramanderò ai miei figli. Questa settimana è stata una delle più importanti della mia vita, vorrei abbracciarvi. E’ incredibile come in barca si rompano i più grandi amori ma anche come iniziano le più grandi amicizie. E’ stato bellissimo fare tutto questo con voi. Mi commuovo pensando ai capodogli, alle tartarughe con i pesciolini sotto alla loro ombra, l’eleganza degli zifi e poi scoppio in lacrime mentre penso alle stenelle con i loro piccoli che giocano sotto alla prua della barca… il mare è una poesia.
Ciao a tutti, scrivo alla fine di questa esperienza nel caos delle ultime pulizie e del ri-assettaggio del fantastico Pelagos che ci ha portato in posti difficilmente descrivibili a parole e con tempi che non seguono il lineare corso delle ore. Leggevo, prima di venire che le balene hanno una particolare “aura” non immaginabile per chi non abbia avuto l’esperienza di vederle. Sono completamente d’accordo: vedere questi giganteschi animali che emergono con maestosità ed eleganza dalle profondità di un mondo così misterioso è un regalo immenso che porterò sempre con me. Un grazie quindi a tutti gli animali che abbiamo visto e che ci hanno mostrato con grande gentilezza uno stralcio della loro vita e un grazie anche a tutti gli animali della specie Homo sapiens che hanno condiviso con me questa esperienza e che ricorderò con grande affetto.