Created in 2006 by science journalist Paola Catapano, MINIDARWIN aims at taking groups of children on scientific expeditions coached by real scientists and science communication professionals.

On the occasion of International Year of Biodiversity 2010, theMiniDarwins are ready to leave on their third expedition, to the Amazon Forest, devoted to biodiversity and its socio-economic spin offs. The MiniDarwins will be coached by biodiversity scientists and an ecological socio-economist specialised in ethno-ecology to experience life with an Indigenous population in the Amazon Forest

During the trip, we will publish on this blog a diary of the expedition and some of the photos, videos, interviews and texts we are producing for later publication on our website, book, reportage and documentary film.

30 July 2010

Baia dos Golfinhos : Dolphins !

Fri July 30, 2010
This morning we woke up at 5 am to climb up a muddy trail in the dark and reach Baia dos Golfinhos, to observe the dolphins from a 50 m high cliff with the marine biologists.  One might wonder why making this effort, in Noronha where there's no tourist who took a boat tour that has not seen dolphins spinning above the surface (these are spinning dolphins, Stenella longirostris a species that jumps a lot out of the water, making wonderful pirouettes, not only to breathe but probably also to communicate better among each other through the formation of air bubbles in the water). So for the first hour and a half, when no dolphin was in sight in the bay just below our observation point, everybody was a bit nervous looking at the horizon. The young biologists from the Golfinho Rodeador project were ready with their binoculars, note sheets and counters, wondering why the dolphins were late. Kai, who had already been impatient since the first lights of the morning, was just getting more nervous as he realized that the tele-objective of his camera was not the right one for this distance; at 7h00 sharp, one of the biologists screamed "there!" and pointed his binoculars towards the left of the bay. And then "tick, tick, tick" … went the biologists' counters at each jump and "click, click, click.."  the cameras of the lucky watchers. The dolphins' dance has started in the bay  50 m below our feet, and we could all watch it breathless, with or without binoculars. 

"It was worth coming here then! ", exclaimed Kai.  "Everyday, we observe an average of 360 dolphins in this bay, between 5h00 and 9h00 in the morning" said one of the biologists, and he asked " Why do you think there's such a high concentration, actually the highest in the world, right here, in Baia dos Golfinhos? ". The MiniDarwins start submitting hypotheses: "Because they find good food", says Alberto. "Because it's a wonderful place to rest" suggests Maxine. "Because the waters are so clear that they can see the predators better" says Kai. Their answers are all correct. Fernando de Noronha is the only place in the Atlantic where the dolphins can find clear, deep and calm waters to take a rest during their crossing. In the Pacific, there are many places with the right conditions, while in the Atlantic, this is the only one, so that's why they all concentrate here and you can see over 300 of them every morning, charging their batteries before they continue the crossing. The waters of the Baia dos Golfinhos are deep and calm, ideal for resting, feeding and reproduction, and they're very clear (the visibility is 50 m) for the dolphins to be able to see predators in time to escape (dolphins have a very good eye sight). "What is the dolpin's worst ennemy? asks Maxine. "The shark, says the biologist, they love dolphin meat, it's their preferred food". "But how can you count them with your tool and the binoculars and be sure you're not counting the same dolphin twice?" asks Alberto, who is very sensitive to accuracy. "We point the binoculars to one specific area where we see dophins jumping out of the water, and we count each jump we see. Since on avreage dolphins can continue underwater without breathing for 13 minutes, we're pretty sure we're not double counting by recording the jumps we see in a specific area of the bay."
It was definitely worth the early wake up, we all think walking back along the path and getting excited about the rest of our dolphin day. Today we planned a boat tour, and we're now sure that what the Noronha marine park guides say is true: there's not a single tourist who's taken a boat tour around the island and has not seen dolphins!

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