On the 1st of September the research team boarded the Chance Discovery, a beautiful 55ft sailboat captained by Richard George, a knowledgeable sailor and close friend to the organisation. Our day began with a visit from a local television crew while we were still moored in Porto Montenegro. They interviewed multiple members of the team including the Project Consultant, Aylin Akkaya Baş, and Volunteer Coordinator, Elisa Gaggioli, about the marine mammals of Montenegro and purpose of the our research. Research assistants Amy Jones and Debbie Brill also received their five minutes of fame as they spoke to the cameras about their backgrounds in biology and roles within the project.
At 10am we waved goodbye to the TV crew, and slowly cruised into the Bay of Kotor. The water in the bay was calm providing the perfect opportunity for a dolphin sighting. Our eyes were peeled and we waited patiently as the Chance Discovery cut its way through the water. “Dolphins!” exclaimed one of the volunteers excitedly. Thrilled to see dolphins so early in the survey everyone jumped to attention and began recording their behaviours. Through our binoculars we followed a pod of four bottlenose dolphins interacting with another sailboat. Our captain circled our boat around to follow the pod as they moved between the surrounding vessels. After 20 minutes of snapping pictures and collecting data we left the dolphins and began our three hour journey out into deeper waters near the South Adriatic pit.
Lunch time rolled around with no more dolphin or whale sightings, so we took a break from surveying and went for a swim. Despite the water being over 400 metres deep it was surprisingly warm and reenergised the team. The survey continued until sunset and we were only a few kilometres away from Ulcinj. Clocking 10 hours total survey time, the team was tired but satisfied with the data we collected. As summer ends and most of the tourist boats leave the Montenegro coast, we hope to encounter more and more dolphins and whales.
By Amy Strandquist