Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Howdy From Andavadoaka

The sun just dipped below the horizon at 5:37. As we approach winter solstice, the days do indeed continue to grow shorter. While many folks in Alaska or Sweden will watch the sun pass through the sky without setting on June 21st, we will be celebrating the shortest day of the year.

The pirogue that the Vezo people use is a hand-made, all purpose transportation vessel. Several groups of volunteers spent from about 6:30am until roughly sunset, in two hour intervals, watching for incoming pirogues to monitor the fish catch. This is a survey Blue Ventures is undertaking to assess what species are being caught, how much and with what style fishing technique. Additional surveys volunteers will conduct include juvenile fish counts in the Mangroves, seashell and seagrass inventory, shark fishing monitoring, more Baobab mapping, vegetation analysis of Nosy Hoa (a very nearby sand cay) and snorkel mapping. All of these projects are in addition to the current fish and benthic surveys already being conducted
during the dives.

Much of the information being gathered is base-line data, meaning that it has never been collected before and can be used to assess health of the ecosystem over time. This information is vitally important to help establish the MPA (Marine Protected Area) Blue Ventures hoping for.

It is exciting and challenging work that hopefully everyone can learn and benefit from.

Friday, May 26, 2006

update from expedition medic Jo Osmont

"We've been on site for 10 days now and everyone is settling in really well. It's a friendly group and everyone's getting on brilliantly. We've been working hard learning allsorts of new skills - 3 of the guys have passed their PADI Open Water and lots of us are starting to pass our Benthic identification tests too. One eager person has even passed their fish test - the rest of us are decidedly lagging behind. It's been quite windy for the past few days so instead of diving we've been out in the spiny forest mapping the Baobab trees - hot work in the sun but it's amazing to see these gigantic trees and all the other wildlife. We even found a boa (thank goodness there are no poisonous snakes in Madagascar!) We've also been enjoying the beautiful beaches and last night a few of us organized "Spacehopper Olympics" - the first event of its kind in the world we believe. It's basically a cross-country course complete with hurdles and water hazards but instead of running round it you spacehop! Congratulations to team 4 on their victory. We've also been working on our Malagasy and Bic gave us a lesson yesterday although I think it'll take a few more classes before we're even remotely fluent. It's good fun being able to chat with the locals when we go down to the village for English lessons and to stock up on the lovely peanut brittle they sell."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Andavadoaka Research Update

Latest Andavadoaka research news available at this link

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Smooth Start

At the ungodly hour of 5 am in the morning, sleepy yet upbeat volunteers braved the 'murky' shores of Tulear to embark on their epic voyage aboard Batifavia, the much loved boutre, destination Andavadoaka. Armed with pizzas, umbrellas and mountains of foam, everyone felt they were duly prepared for a journey they had been warned could take 48 hours.

Setting off with the sun rising behind us and aided by a spirited wind, all was on course for a brilliant trip. As the day progressed, volunteers happily passed the time getting to know one another, especially the girls who had to share intimate toilet excursions - a truly bonding experience! All were amazed by the strength and agility of the Malagasy crew of the ship, who climbed the steel cables to the crow's nest barefoot, whilst also keeping us entertained with their singing and card playing. After a day of blissful weather conditions, everyone cosied up for a night under the guidance of an enormous full moon until rudely awakened at 3am by news of our arrival - a great surprise to everyone as the Batifavia had only been at sea a mere 21 hours!

It's now Day 2 and orientation is drawing to a close with all volunteers eagerly awaiting getting thoroughly stuck in to life in Andavadoaka.

Ali's on the road at last!

A quick update from Ali Miller, who after 6 months working as an intern in BV's London office is finally on the road to Andavadoaka with the May expedition team... All volunteers have arrived safely in Tulear and have enjoyed their 1st group meal together as well as a fair amount of last minute shopping to collect all the necessary condiments for 6 weeks on site. Sprits are high and everyone is eagerly awaiting getting to site, oh and of course the 20 hour boat ride that will get them there - a perfect opportunity for all volunteers to get fully acquainted with the ocean! As it is just beginning it's now a case of watching this space for further updates and news from site....