Latest News From the Song of the Whale

Song of the Whale. a global ambassador for IFAW's whale conservation campaigns, is a state of-the-art education and research vessel. Designed to provide a flexible working platform for whale research, public education and advocacy, the Song of the Whale team carries out studies of threatened and endangered marine mammals and their habitats, educates students, trains scientists and develops and disseminates non-invasive research techniques around the world.

This digest of recent Song of the Whale activity was written by Goran Danbolt...additional thoughts by written by other crew memebers...

Written by Goran Danbolt

We are now gracefully sailing along with the sails in goose wing configuration and with Gozo, the northern of the three Maltese islands, well in sight.  This means that today most probably will be the last day on board the Song of the Whale for us volunteers, i.e. Goran and Pelle, who are to leave the team at Valletta.  The sailing is very pleasant and has been going on like this since noon yesterday. 16 – 19 knots stern winds have pushed the Song of the Whale eastward with 6 – 8 knots.  Yesterday’s cook had a relatively easy job in the galley, in contrast to the evening before when we were close to a thunderstorm and the Song of the Whale behaved like a mad cow!  The observations of marine life since the Baleares have unfortunately been very few.  A sole common dolphin appeared a few times and a school of bottlenose dolphins displayed a number of jumps, on one occasion with four of the dolphins perfectly synchronized!  A loggerhead turtle was observed today, lying upside down in the surface and struggling for normal position, which it finally achieved.  Birdlife continues to be scarce with the exception of the shearwaters and a kestrel hovering around the Song of the Whale for some time.

Saturday 5th May - Saturday 12th May 2007

written by Magnus

On Saturday evening we arrive at the ports of Valletta.  The harbour entrance is very impressive, narrow and fortified on both sides.  Valletta was built after the Great Siege by the Turks in 1566 but some of the fortresses are much older.  We are moored in the Grand Harbour in Vittoriosa, the oldest part of the town which was there before the main capital of Valletta. That’s where 600 knights and 1500 Maltese held stand against 40000 Turks. Malta has an interesting history, beginning with remains of a civilisation older than the pyramids, the Phoenician, Arab and English colonisations.  But now Malta is a republic, a member of the EU and just about to adopt the Euro.  We use the time in port to do some work on the boat and to change the crew before the survey begins.

Our contacts for setting up activities in Malta, primarily Carmen Mifsud from Malta Environment & Planning Authority (a former Song of the Whale intern) and Melanie Salmon, assisted with a reception we hosted on Tuesday evening (8th May).  Local NGO’s, Government officials and other guests were invited to have a look around the boat and to learn about IFAW, our work and the techniques we use.  On Wednesday (9th May), a local school visited the boat, just before the Minister of Rural Affairs and the Environment, Mr George Pullicino and his staff arrived to tour the boat along with journalists and photographers.  Later that evening, the Mayor of Valletta came to visit and kindly invited us to dinner at a sea side restaurant.  We have a few more days before the whole crew is gathered and on Saturday morning we leave for the first survey leg.

Saturday 12th May 2007

Written by Evelyn

Song of the Whale leaves its berth in Vittoriosa, Malta with a full crew of ten people, full fuel tanks and a whole lot of food!  The crew list is now comprised of Richard, Anna, Tim, Magnus, Mat and Claire (SOTW team), Evelyn and Mark (SOTW field assistants for the summer), Veronica from IFAW’s EU office in Brussels and Duncan Borg, and our Maltese representative.  We are heading south to start the survey and have a few miles to travel before we reach the start of the track line.  The weather is fantastic with slack winds, a very calm sea and clear skies – perfect sighting conditions.  As we are on passage south we take the time to practise our range estimation.  A buoy is thrown overboard and we measure rough distances to it as we motor away by holding the tip of a pencil lined up with the horizon and the buoy.  Then we estimate distance to the buoy as we approach it again.  The hydrophones are deployed and after a few technical hiccups are ironed out, we are all set to go.

Sunday 13th May 2007

Written by Duncan

We steam towards Libya on our first track line, encountering some turtles and a few small groups of dolphins (common and later, some striped) after Tim picked up their squeaks acoustically.  The watch system is up and running and everyone seems to have settled to the movement of the boat.  The weather is fantastic; finally I can say that weather forecasters in Malta managed to get the weather right one time.  This is a great experience and I can say I am enjoying one of the best times of my life.  Mark cooked pasta with avocado and mushroom sauce which was great.  The thing that amazes me most is how things we usually take for granted are more beautiful and bright when you are at sea, sunsets especially.

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