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Aeolian Islands Expedition 2018

The Aeolian Islands are group of volcanic islands located in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily. Here, emblematic species like the loggerhead sea turtle, sperm whale, swordfish and bluefin tuna can be found swimming in its waters.

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Diaries

We’re sailing towards one of our research zones on the second to last day of the expedition. Even though we’re here to document the seafloor, we make sure nothing escapes our eyes, binoculars or cameras: seabirds, dolphins, turtles, tunas, swordfish…we’re documenting everything we see on the water’s surface.

We’re in the Mediterranean and we’re waiting to spot swordfish jumping above the water, dolphins and seabirds feeding of fish and dozing turtles on the surface. That’s the Mediterranean.

Today we spend the day at the foot of the Stromboli volcano, its impressive 924 m (3,031 ft) cone a constant presence. Still active, several fumaroles can be seen on the summit. The countdown has already begun. We’re in the final stretch of the campaign. We'll be heading home soon. 

We’re nearing the end of the expedition. The Aeolian Islands are a spectacular place to work, vacations here must be genuinely amazing. The people are peculiarly charming and you breathe an age-old peace and a sense of tranquility that we’re missing so much in our daily life. The Mediterranean is treating us extremely well and working conditions have been optimal.

Ready to face the final stretch of the Aeolian Expedition: Here we are, just six days away from the end of the expedition, again. It seems like just yesterday that we embarked. In short, tomorrow we head to Stromboli, the closing party in Lipari and the trip home. Here’s where I say goodbye, thrilled with how everything turned out. Thank you very much, Oceana.

My first day on board this expedition, as I join for the final week of work in the deep areas surrounding the beautiful Aeolians. I was last in Salina nearly two years ago, participating in a think tank hosted by the Aeolian Islands Preservation Fund, in which we discussed potential ways forward for creating a marine protected area.

We continue with our campaign on these islands. Since we return to the port of Salina at the end of practically every day we know this town as if we have lived here for a long time, we know its people, the shops, the restaurants, the beaches, and the people know who we are. The countdown to the end of the campaign has already begun and the pace of work remains the same. Hopefully, this last week will be a productive one for the entire Oceana team. Greetings from the Aeolian Islands!

Today I was leafing through the “full-color hardcover” book of the 12.000 millas en defensa de los mares: La expedición del Oceana Ranger (12,000 miles in defense of the seas: The Oceana Ranger expedition). Looking at the photos from this trip from the port of San Diego to Tarragona, it struck me as interesting to see the ship in tropical landscapes, passing through mangroves, with red-footed marlins with blue beaks perched on the bow, sailing among pelicans, and with an underwater wildlife that’s very different from the Mediterranean.

The days pass between the ROV's deep trips to the seabed and documentation in shallower waters. The shocking scene of yesterday's trip is still on my mind and will be something I’ll never forget. We started the first dive of the day when, at about 20 meters deep, we came across a loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) hooked to the seabed by a fishing hook.

Sea turtles are in danger of extinction. Among the main threats are accidental catches, marine pollution, changes to their spawning habitats, climate change, egg collection and maritime traffic.

Eolo greeted us in the morning, creating a beautiful landscape with the blue sky, the steep Aeolian coast, and the white waves contrasting against the sea.

Today wasn’t a day for the ROV but it was for diving. My fellow divers spent their time searching for the best photo and the much-desired video and had my attentive envy from the boat.

Being able to disconnect and have a day for ourselves is almost as important as a good meal on board. It helps improve the relationship between the crew, giving us a chance to rest and recover before getting back to the sea with recharged energy. Today we spend our time to doing laundry, taking walks, getting to know the island of Salinas and interacting with the locals. Tomorrow we will happily continue with our work after a day spent on land.

 

I joined the campaign yesterday, now at the base port on Salina Island. During my two weeks here we’ll sail from this port to the different areas that we have left to investigate, leaving and returning to port daily except when we go to the study area in Ginostra, the island formed by the Stromboli volcano.

The days pass by and we’re almost at the middle of our campaign. For the moment, we haven’t any complaints on how the wind, sea nor islands have treated us.

These are perfect conditions to survey the depths of the Aeolians, which surprise us daily with new species and habitats that deserve to be protected. One of the things that caught our attention is the confirmation, once again, on how structural organisms, specifically corals, grow in relation to other surrounding species.

Hey! My name is Ben and I’m a filmmaker and photographer from the United Kingdom. Last week BBC wildlife presenter and myself were invited on board the Ranger to make a series of short films about the work that the Aeolians team are doing in the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

After a long day’s travel from London to Salina, we got up early to meet the Ranger crew. Introductions were warm but fast, as we had to leave port and start collecting data.

After enjoying our day off on Salina Island, today we welcomed aboard Patrick and Ben, from the BBC.

Throughout the day they were able to see how we work on board, and equally, we got to see how they work as well.

In short, like always, another great day aboard the Ranger.

 

This is my second expedition with Oceana, this time in a totally different boat to the Neptune last year, but there’s still the same good atmosphere with the work and crew members as last year.

There are some tough days, but we make the most out of the fun moments we have. We’re continuing our adventure around the Aeolian Islands and I hope we can share more of these stories with you as the expedition rolls on.

 

Just imagine breathing under water. Imagine diving at huge depths. Imagine being around the wonderful coral reefs or incredible bamboo coral. Imagine living side by side with deep-sea sharks, sea sponges or species with unpronounceable names but beauty beyond words.

This is exactly what we get to experience on board the Oceana Ranger – well through our underwater robot. We do get to see what the robot sees and get to imagine what it feels like for our true stars of the expedition – the living creatures that live hundreds of metres below the oceans’ surface.

We’re in the land of the “tiramisu,” a dessert which literally means “take me up” (due to its coffee and sugar), and also reminds me of the orders that come from the ROV pilots below deck as the ROV climbs back up again whilst being maneuvered down below in the Aeolians depths — “two up!, five up!”

A MEMORY, lost in time, and a crimson gleam on the volcano's summit while rocks crash down the slope of Stromboli island.

A PRESENT, living an experience privy to few, seeking out the strange creatures used to living in the dark, hundreds of meters below the sea’s surface.

A PRIVELAGE, to be part of a perfectly-coordinated team of human beings carrying-out this marine expedition in the Aeolians Islands.

A WISH, that our effort to understand the Tyrrhenian Sea better helps to preserve and protect this magnificent enclave in the Mediterranean.

The view of Filicudi from the Ranger is breathtaking, and below the surface is no disappointment either.

The sight of these giant mountain walls with their cracked ledges and ancient, catastrophic origins is a humbling experience when you’re “flying” the ROV just shy of one kilometer under surface of the sea we all are familiar with.

When I see the mud displaced by the ROV fall away and vanish in the deep, I can’t help but wonder about what unseen creatures or elements may be hiding-away lying in the wait in the darkness below.

 

7 areas, 26 days, nearly 500 square km, one boat and all the excitement in the world as we set out on this expedition in the Mare Nostrum on a quest to protect the depths of the Aeolian Islands—where its 29,500 lucky inhabitants get to call these beautiful volcanic islands home.

 

A World Heritage Site since 2000, these islands have numerous protected areas to safeguard its land-based heritage sites, but its surrounding seas have been left a bit forgotten. And that’s just the reason why Oceana Europe is starting its twenty-sixth expedition today.

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