10 July 2009
Dolphins of Greece, 1-9 July
After a long trip I am usually ready to return home, but working with Joan and Iva and the dolphins has been such a wonderful experience that I wish it could go on for a few more days. Our group was very impressed with Joan’s abilities, especially to take photo’s while driving the boat with one foot, while giving directions to us volunteers on where to keep our eyes. “Shout louder please Sophie, I can’t hear you”. Joan, your knowledge, dedication, and patience is admirable. I will take your message back to my students to inspire them, and challenge them to take better care of our planet so that dolphins and every other creature (humans too!) can enjoy a beautiful healthy planet. Many thanks to Iva for teaching me how to use the netpad and all her help with the photo cropping, grouping and matching. Without your help we’d still be working on the first batch of photos.
For 9 days, I was living in my childhood fantasy that I would have a dolphin as my pet and have a bathtub big enough for it. Here in Vonitsa, I have a beautiful “bathtub” big enough to hold more than 150 amazing dolphins, lots of sea turtles and different kinds of fishes. When the dolphins were surrounding us, we could hear them breathing so peacefully. I almost jumped out of the boat to swim with them. (Sorry Joan, I know you said they’re wild animals just like tigers and lions. Swimming with them is unpredictable). The day we did our last survey at Amvrakikos Gulf, I saw a group of 5 dolphins in the afternoon from the beach. They were about only 200m away which supposedly to be the closest sighting “ever”! We took it as a gesture of saying goodbye to us. This is my first Earthwatch expedition and I enjoyed every second of it. Joan is an experienced marine biologist with great knowledge and enthusiasm. He is also a REAL guy and you feel like yourself around him. All of our group members liked him a lot and probably went home with lots of precious “quotes” from him (some might not be appropriate for kids). Thanks Joan, Iva, Marcia, Maureen, Sophie and Bo for this wonderful experience in my life!
I visited Greece many years ago as a tourist and always wanted to return as something more. This expedition and Earthwatch have provided me with that opportunity. Joan is a magnificent research scientist doing and sharing so much more than merely his knowledge. He is implementing a program to hopefully change the fate of the dolphins he studies. Iva’s patience and kind expertise (even as she learns ) is inspirational. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. The sea, the dolphins, the village and all of the knowledge that you imparted are appreciated and will be shared many times over with friends and associates. Hopefully a greater impact will be made as a result of all of your efforts!
When I arrived I had never seen a dolphin outside an aquarium. Now, a week later, I have a mental catalogue of cetacean friends. Tip for new photo-matchers: mnemonics help! “Wedge” and “Kissy Lips” were much easier (and more fun!) to spot than “A2” and “A14”. I enjoyed the simple, slow life of a (pampered, wannabe) marine biologist. I ate delicious food. I breathed clean air. I learned a lot. I laughed a lot! Thanks, Joan, for showing us your version of what life can be when it’s not about “stuff”.
This has been a “brilliantly lovely” introduction to Greece, I'm so glad I came on this project. I feel like I've learnt so much in just a short space of time. Despite not being able to differentiate between 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock in the pressure of the moment, not yelling loud enough, and getting the distances all wrong, I hope I've helped in a small way (and not frustrated Joan too much!). Congrats to Joan for all his hard work and dedication, its very impressive and inspiring. Congrats also to Iva, a top notch assistant! I will leave this place with many special memories – from “floating potatoes”, to “blip” the dolphin, to yummy greek salad (with cucumbers), to the “totally awesome” moment when a dolphin was bowriding right next to me! Since I'm studying science at university I just want to mention how encouraging it was to see that the work done was carefully considered so as to be scientifically sound, and therefore valuable to the wider scientific community. Keep up the good work Joan et al! Thanks for all the laughter, but also for showing one person can make a difference in the world. All the best to my lovely team of Nan & Bo, Marcia, and Maureen.