On Board - Monitoring & Boat Trips in Gibraltar
The Bay of Gibraltar - a territory of some 16 square kilometres - is sheltered, so fortunately the sea is usually calm. On a typical day it can be no more than a gentle roll through the waves. Usually we run our transect courses for two and a half to four hours; once we are out of the harbour our speed will go from three knots to a steady five to six knots. One of the team will be located at the bow of the boat or topside on the flying bridge, scanning the waves for a sign of dolphins: It takes a sharp and experienced eye to read those subtle clues, such as a faint surface ripple or feeding birds. The spotter gives hand signals to the helmsman, or uses the two-way radio from the flying bridge.
Our first sight of dolphins might be a majestic figure leaping out of the water or an odd movement on sea of a dolphin quietly breaking surface to breathe. We might see a mother and a calf or a whole herd. The Helping Hand Trust's crew will quickly tell whether they are feeding, courting, playing or whether they are just in passage. While the visitors aboard the Nimo enjoy the spectacle of wild dolphins, we carefully take note of everything that we see.
During the summer months there can be several hundred dolphins in the Bay, but most of them are visitors. Approximately 80 dolphins are believed to be permanent residents, and many of them have names to help the researchers who monitor their behaviour: 'Snowy' has a white peak on his fin, while we recognise 'White Spot' or 'Spot' by the patch at the base of the fin. You might see 'The Colonel', 'Twisted Fin' or one of many other 'locals'. All our findings are being compiled in our continiously growing database, which is availabe for researchers and students.
Of course dolphins are not the only animals we look out for. On our trips we come across turtles, flying-fish, sea birds and migrating raptors - just to name a few. If we are very lucky we might even see a minke or killer whale - and this is only the world above the waterline.
Diving into the Universe Underwater
Among our crew we have experienced divers who won't miss an opportunity to explore the world under the surface. During regular diving trips, our research vessel Nimo is our reliable anchorage to return back to. It is during these dives that we can see the high diversity of the marine wildlife and the changes it is inevitably exposed to. Of special interest are spots which form part of the Artificial Reef, such as Seven Sisters. Within these small oases you might even encounter Mediterranean barracuda.
Come on Board: If we have a space on our research vessel, we will take you on a board and share the experience with you.