20 August 2009
Dolphins of Greece, 11-19 August
Dolphins of Greece, an evocative term for a fantastic expedition. Patient, friendly, good humoured, and infectiously enthusiastic about their work Marina and Zsuzsanna are great people and great teachers. Posi the dog was great as well, although now he’s behaving better he’s starting to get boring. The volunteers on this team were also great, we got on well and worked together easily and efficiently. My thanks therefore to Jen, Rick, and Christoph, as well as Marina and Zsuzsanna for a wonderful time. The work and experiences themselves were amazing. I’ll never forget the large group of juvenile dolphins showing stereotypical teenage behaviour (shoving, pushing, playing and flirting with each other), the two dead sea turtles we found, or the worry on our final boat trip that we wouldn’t see any dolphins. I wish I was able to stay and carry on working on this project, preferably with this team, but I have to return to the UK. So it’s with fond memories and sadness that I say farewell to Vonitsa and my first Earthwatch experience. I’ll definitely be trying to get on others, possibly this one again, and also to support Tethys.
As the expedition drew nearer, we tried to keep our expectations as reasonable as possible. So many people had told us of the beauty of Greece and of the incredible food for years leading up to our flight to Athens and bus ride to Vonitsa. Now as we wrap up our Earthwatch expedition I can safely say that all of our expectations were met and exceeded. Greece delivered the as-promised amazing food, the sights, the generous locals, the heat and the dolphins. But the importance of all of those things pale in comparison to the people we worked with on this expedition. Our volunteer-mates were hard-working yet fun. We immediately connected with both James and Christoph and together we created a memorable expedition. Our leaders, Susie and Marina, were incredibly professional and yet casual at the same time. They made sure that the work got done but also passed along the awe of seeing the dolphins (and jellyfish and turtles, albeit mostly dead ones). As teachers ourselves, we know that many behind-the-scenes details need to get done to make any learning experience happen. Susie and Marina undoubtedly worked very hard to provide the best possible experience for us. Their dedication and hard work led to great days on the sea and wonderful learning opportunities on land. Their love of the animals and of their work was infectious. And, of course, their sense of humor brought smiles everyday. They are scientists, for sure, and we are not, but they made us feel like a vital part of a team doing important research. On one of the first days we were lucky enough to spot 4 dolphins in Kalamos after many prior trips (before we arrived) turned up none. But even before that turn of good luck, we noted what an amazing thing Earthwatch is able to do. Our van was like a little United Nations with American, Austrian, Brit, Hungarian, and Italian practicing bits of Greek sharing our own cultural quirks. We traded pieces of our own lives back home to make for an enriching experience. We have become more aware consumers of fish and more appreciative of the work that scientists do. We will bring home a new-found respect for the sea and for the people that tend it. Most importantly we will return home having made 4 great friends and so many memories we will never forget. The expedition far exceeded our expectations because of the wonderful people we were able to share it with. Thanks for everything! Efharisto para poli!
Rick and Jen, USA