Students Have a Whale of a Time on Mediterranean Adventure

Students stepped out of the classroom and onto a boat recently, as they sailed across the Mediterranean Sea in search of marine life.

Year 9 pupils were enlisted to help four cetacean researchers at the port of Sanremo, Italy, where they helped to collect valuable data about whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean region while living on a 72-foot research sailing boat.

Over the course of the trip, students saw more than one hundred striped dolphins, a loggerhead sea turtle, two sperm whales, and two fin whales. They also spotted bottle-nosed dolphins, only the fourth sighting of the pod for the entire season.

Teacher, Abigail Nagamootoo said, however, that the most incredible discovery came later: “We saw one sperm whale called Erico twice in the course of the week – which was incredible considering he hadn’t been seen by researchers in the entire Mediterranean Sea for more than a decade!

“Best of all though, was when we came across another sperm whale. We soon realised he’d never been seen before and had the unique privilege of naming him Lewis, in honour of the school.”

Students were also put through their paces as amateur sailors on the expedition, and tasked with cooking, cleaning and maintenance duties, while also spending one hour shifts working with a marine biologist on the sighting platform every day.

In a rare turn of events, the captain steered the group out from Sanremo and into French waters, where they anchored overnight between two islands in the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera). Pupils had the chance to jump from the boat into the water to swim and snorkel in the middle of the ocean.

“This trip was really about offering students something completely different. After we went to Costa Rica last year, we wanted to give Year 9 students a similar chance to do conservation work in an inspiring setting. The expedition gave them an insight into marine life which they could never have experienced had they just been studying within a Sussex classroom,” Abigail added. “It was quite literally a chance to expand their horizons by sailing into the vast expanse of the ocean and we’re so grateful to the Tethys Institute for being so insightful.”

The trip marked LOGS’s third collaboration with WorkingAbroad, which has worked with the Tethys Institute for almost a decade to send volunteers to the Dolphin & Whale Project in Italy to research the ecology, behaviour, feeding habits and conservation of cetacean species living in the Mediterranean.

Vicky Kornevall-McNeil, co-founder of WorkingAbroad, said: “The feedback from students has been wonderful.” said Vicky. “This experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives – nothing beats the excitement of being on the top looking out and suddenly sighting a sperm whale and we’re delighted to now offer this trip each year to LOGS to help inspire and reconnect them with nature."