After a successful trip from the shipyard in Antibes to Palma de Mallorca, via La Ciotat, the Mission Ocean team have completed their first scientific expedition in the north of Mallorca, in partnership with Asociación Ondine.
We sailed on our 42’ catamaran, Contigo, to Formentor, the northernmost tip of the island. A few tender runs back-and-forth later, the boat was laden with dive gear, cameras, local food and three lovely divers from Ondine. One of the long-term projects that Ondine have been working on is to identify zones that could be classed as Marine Protected Areas by the government of the Balearic Islands. They have already succeeded in getting stunning areas such as Dragonera Island protected with strict restrictions on fishing and anchoring during the summer months, and our mission was to gather data on the flora and fauna between Formentor and Soller, to form part of a detailed report that will soon be submitted to the authorities.
The team dived first around an hour south west of Formentor point, with Henrique joining them for their second dive in the afternoon. Careful planning by lead diver Miguel had seen strategic points identified for each operation, starting at around 50m depth and creeping gradually in towards the shore, taking observations, videos and photos as they went. Contigo’s crew took turns to man the tender and the mothership, and to keep everyone fed and happy.
After a calm night at anchor in a beautiful secluded bay, we inched our way along the coast to Miguel’s chosen dive spot for the following morning, under the massive, imposing cliffs that dominate this side of the island.
On the way, we were dismayed to sail through whole zones of floating macro-plastics which seemed only to increase as we headed south (beach balls, polystyrene boxes, kids’ balloons...).These sightings only helped to reinforce the importance of what we were doing, and the dive team quickly kitted up and sped off to begin their third dive.
Their huge smiles as they returned gave away the beauty of what they had seen underwater – a stunning boulder garden teeming with life. A final dive after lunch confirmed their suspicions; we had found a fascinating, diverse site that offered perfect conditions in which fish could live and reproduce; an ideal candidate for a Marine Protected Area.
Our final goal before heading back to Palma was to test a prototype of a simple structure with a quadrant base for scale, a camera and a lamp. The aim is of this tool is to take film and photo footage at depths of up to 100m. We carried three separate tests at 50m, using our two engines to keep Contigo as stationary as possible and avoid the cradle dragging behind her. The tests were a resounding success, and the resulting images were even better than we had imagined. At sunset, we dropped the happy, exhausted divers on a pretty little quay at the end of a long, slim bay and motored gently down towards Soller to pick up a buoy for the night.
This is just one example of some of the great projects that we witnessed and took part in during our 3-week stay in Palma. If you are there for the winter, or planning a short stop, then we wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved in the beach cleans, educational projects and other fantastic work that is going on down there.
Palma has a huge sanitary and plastic waste problem, which the government of the Balearic Islands has not woken up to yet, and so it has fallen to non-profit groups like Asociacion Ondine who are raising awareness, motivating the general public to do something about the issues, and working hard to protect the most beautiful parts of the island. Groups like these rely on volunteers to keep their actions alive, and the yachting community is full of useful resources that can make these projects even better.
Contigo and the Mission Ocean crew are heading down to the Canary Islands, to teach plastic pollution workshops in high schools across the island. We will be taking examples of the trash we found in Palma to show in class, and we will be trailing a net behind the boat to take samples of plankton, fish larvae and microplastics along the way.