Learning curves, good company and questionable Tagalog pronunciation
by Isabel Hassall
I am now nearing the end of my three month placement in Puerto Princesa and it has flown by! The last ten weeks have been a truly wonderful experience, full of learning curves, good company, questionable Tagalog pronunciation and stunning whale shark encounters. When I told a few people at home what I would be doing next with my life they didn’t quite believe what I said. And it does sound like a joke really… “Yeah, I’m going to be in the Philippines for the next three months free-diving to collect images of whale sharks.” Still hasn’t really sunk in yet for me either.
Palawan – The paradise of the Philippines
I’m back. Once again I find myself back in this crazy and beautiful country of the Philippines. Where travelling from one place to another sometimes takes hours, if not days with a bus, jeepney, trike and two boats. Where finding a quick feed at the bus station means getting another bag of garlic peanuts (yum) and a bunch of bananas. It also means being back in the amazing crystal clear - blue waters where whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and eagle rays live.
Close encounters - out of the blue a shark I didn’t recognise appeared!
Before starting my volunteer placement with LAMAVE I knew I would be spending plenty of time in water with the largest fish in the ocean, Whale Sharks, little did I know the close encounter I was soon to experience.
It all started late in the day, we had almost finished our time in the water. When out of the blue a shark I didn’t recognise appeared. As the shark was unknown to me, my first reaction was to ensure I took a good set of ID photos. After that I needed to make note of the sharks gender, approximate size and behaviour. This is where it started to get strange. Whilst the sharks here are not completely shy, they usually don’t take a huge amount of notice of us, just swimming on by. This shark however was different.
Kalena Walker: A Biologist's Elegy
After three months flicking through slide after slide of the same three hundred or so whale sharks, you wonder about the delicate dictation of genes that shape the subtle nuances between phenotypes. Some of their patterns are remarkably similar, different in only the breadth of a stripe here or the completeness of a circle there. Others are perhaps distorted reflections of another. One has its own easily discerned pattern but on closer inspection: the same taper to a V above the pectoral fin, or a familiar swirl adjacent to the posterior-most operculum.
Connie Flora Champman: Missing; the world’s biggest fish
Today’s forecast; clear, sunny skies and a top temperature of 32°C – another glorious day. Whizzing down the coastal road, the breeze providing relief from the already sweltering morning sun, the smell of sea salt wafts through the jeepney. The excitement of soon submerging into the world below the surface builds. Once off the jeepney, each step brings you closer to cooling off with the giants of the deep, in today’s crystal clear blue sea.