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stories from the field

The Humpback Whale Survey
by Kelly Dolan

If you’re considering volunteering with Balyena.org’s annual whale survey, sit down and consider it a bit longer... The whale survey is as much a trial of will and endurance as it is an incredible adventure.

It is most certainly true that as a volunteer you’ll be treated to spectacles that everyone else only glimpses though their television screen, or stumbles across in a National Geographic article while waiting in line at the grocery store. It is most certainly true that volunteers experience a stunning corner of the tropical world rarely, if ever, exposed to the degradations of tourism. It is most definitely true that you will work, sleep and live alongside only the most dedicated of conservationists from around the world, who’s friendship you will cherish for years after your departure.

However, all the magnificent rewards that you will accrue as a volunteer come at none-to-negligible a cost. For example, there is some chance that while crossing to and returning from the island you will be caught up in raging gales with waves that soar higher than the boat’s mast and driven rain that stings your face like hail. There is an absolute certainty that you will at some point stand exposed on an unruffled sea with the searing sun beating down on every exposed inch of your body while you ceaselessly scan the hazy horizon for the faintest hint of a whale spout. At the same time, there will likely be days when the sun is hidden behind deep black clouds, and the misty rain soaks you to the skin, leaving you wet and wretched and shivering with nothing to look forward to but yet more cold and wet and, hopefully, the distraction of a whale... You will also be bitten by mosquitos and you will eat more boiled white rice than you ever suspected possible...

So consider this prospect carefully. Joining Jo Marie and her crew is a true adventure that you will carry with you for the remainder of your days, and at times it will be difficult. If you believe that you have the will and endurance to join the survey I for one would encourage you to do so.