Monday, January 25, 2010

Teaching about whales in Soufriere, Dominica

Kara Robinson, Dominica Expedition

So much has happened since my last post. I have officially seen the largest tooth whale on the planet, the sperm whale! What an amazing and strange creature, so different than the baleen whales I am used to in New England. We saw a couple of singles and a group of three that swam right under the boat, we could see the white patch around their mouth.

A juvenile sperm whale heading towards us, with its one blowhole on the left of its head open.
Photo credit: Kara Mahoney Robinson

Later, I got in the water when no whales were around; we were just 3 miles off shore and probably in close to 5,000 feet of water with nothing at all around us. The Caribbean Sea is soo blue and clear and incredible!!

Also, since last time I wrote we have really gotten into the work that we are here to do! On Monday, we trained 4 teachers from Soufriere Primary School and 5 folks that work with youth throughout Dominica. This day of intense training was followed by our big kick off day at the school in Soufriere, a fishing village 30 minutes south of here, with the teachers and the students, it was FANTASTIC! We were mostly working with the 4th and 5th grades, but when the inflatable whale went up, the whole school came out to see it. They were so excited to learn more and ask TONS of questions.

Teaching students at Soufriere Primary School
Photo credit: Jake Levenson

I have learned a lot from them as well. Most of the students had seen sea turtles nesting on the island--leatherback, green and hawksbill sea turtles nest here on the island. All the students have had "ballau", which is the local word for a type of fish called ballyhoo. Most of the students have never seen a whale, and more shockingly most of the teachers and students have never been in the ocean before, so have never seen the beautiful coral reef and fish that live just feet from the shore. I look forward to spending some more time at this school and visiting another school on the East side of the island, La Plaine, which is a community next to the largest leatherback sea turtle nesting beach on Dominica.

More to come ...

- Kara

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