Thursday, 4 November 2010

Planet of Life

Dolphins became such a common sight throughout all the legs to the Canary Islands, that we really missed them on the days that they didn't arrive.  We identified them as being the Common Dolphin (Delphinus Delphis), and they were truly magical to watch.  Visit the Sea Watch Foundation website for more information on dolphins and their distribution.

Another fascinating yet mysterious animal that we came across was the sea turtle.  We first came across turtles in the crossing between Lagos (Portugal) and Lanzarote (Canary Islands), during the first 3 days when the sea was dead calm and the wind non-existent.  We initially thought that they were pieces of floating debris, as they were mostly submerged, and all we could see was a small dark mass with irregular "lumps" or ridges on the dorsal surface.  We must have passed about 10 of these before we realised that they were, in fact, alive!  We passed close by to one of them; it raised it's head out of the water, must have been just as surprised to see us as we were to see it, and promptly dived, only to resurface a moment later with a fluke in the air, as if to say "I give up"!  We weren't able to positively identify the species, but due to the presence of ridges on the back I assume that they were Leatherback Turtles.  See the Sea Turtle Foundation website for a fascinating insight into the world of turtles and their distribution.

Other life that we saw included small land birds that had flown over 100 miles offshore to find food -  especially off the west coast of Africa, where warm winds off the Sahara blow insects far out to sea.  It's amazing to see a small, fragile bird flitting between the waves, taking the occasional rest on the guard rails of the boat, and then disappearing again into the distance.

It is awe-inspiring to think of the magnificence of the planet on which we live.  When sailing on brilliant blue water with a depth of 4000m+, the brief encounters of life that we had were a mere hint of what lay below us.  And yet, as a species we have somehow managed to threaten so many others with extinction.  I truly hope that by thinking of our place on this planet as being integral, rather than separate, to the system that gave us life, that we can preserve what's left for our children.

1 comment: