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Adrift at Sea

Imagine yourself cozy in your bed, when suddenly you are woken up by a load engine sound! It is morning and it is time to wake up, get dressed and get up to the deck of the boat to look for dolphins, whales, and sea turtles. The boat is named the Toftevaag and is a fully-equipped marine research station. On the boat are tools to measure the salinity, temperature, and oxygen levels in the water, a Global Positioning System, digital video cameras, cell phones and Internet access. Another cool instrument on board is called a hydrophone that drags in the water behind the boat at the end of a cable. This instrument allows you to listen and record the sounds.

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The Toftevaag - with the bagpipe-playing Nano Antonio showing his stuff in the zodiak boat
The two leaders on the boat, Ana Cañadas and Ricardo Sagarminaga van Buiten, guide volunteer groups from all over the world. The volunteers help Ana and Ricardo conduct research on dolphins and whales. As a volunteer, you are able to help with all sorts of things: like checking out the splashes and fins of playful dolphins and surfaced whales through the binoculars, helping navigate the boat and recording data (information) on the condition of the sea. The volunteers also get to cook!

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Ana and Ricardo operate their boat in one of the most important regions of the Mediterranean, the Alboran Sea. This is where the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet. The Mediterranean Sea is warm and has a high rate of evaporation, which makes it salty. This also causes water to be constantly flowing into the Mediterranean. In fact, the waters of the Mediterranean are completely replaced every 100 years. In many places around the world such as the Alboran Sea, dolphin and whale populations are declining. Ana and Ricardo are trying to find out how many dolphins and whales remain in the area and what factors are causing them harm.

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Three Pilot Whales
Some of the impacts include waste disposal, over-fishing and pollution from oil and pesticides. Ana and Ricardo hope that through their efforts laws will be passed to control traffic and fishing in the area, and that a specially protected area will be declared along the coast of the Alboran Sea. Hopefully the information Ana, Ricardo and the many volunteers gather about life in the Alboran Sea will make people more sympathetic to the special creatures that live here. Maybe one of these days people will take action to protect this important area. It is important to protect them so they can continue to exist and so we can continue to appreciate their beauty.


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