First day at Mohamed Qol
Mohamed Qol - 20/10/2012 - written by Steven Kessel
Today the wind was blowing hard, we do not have an anemometer or even good internet to check the weather, but I would estimate that it was blowing a good 30 knots. Thankfully we were not ready to get on the water, so it was not a problem for us. However, I think we are all down one or two layers of skin and it was a south wind and it brought a lot of sand with it. The locals call this wind ‘Asiab’ and it is apparently bad but not as bad as the wind that blow from the west. It was not quite a sand storm but there was a lot of sand in the air and still a lot in my eyes. We have the camp looking a little more liveable now. We have rigged up some more lights to the generator, cleaned up a little and seem to be running something you might describe as a functional operation.
We travelled to Dungonab to look at the boat we will be using to tag the mantas. They told us it was not in good shape and after seeing the ranger station we were dreading seeing it. However, when we got there it was actually really good. The engine started first time and it is ready to go. The wind was too strong to drive it down to our base today but one of the officers stayed there to bring it down tomorrow.
Dungonab is one of the most untouched fishing villages I have ever seen. You get the feeling that it has been exactly the same for over 100 years. All the shacks are made out of wood and the people there are living completely traditionally despite relative close proximity to Port Sudan. There are camels and goats everywhere you look and around seven small fishing boats that support the community.
We then met Isa, a local fisherman that Claudio had recommended to him for us to work with. Through a translator we asked him about getting manta rays to tag. He said “give me five minutes on the water and we will have them”. I realized many years ago the importance of local knowledge. I was working on the Jupiter lemon shark project in Florida. It was in its early stages but going very badly, we could not catch any sharks no matter how hard we tried. We were losing hope when we had a ex-local commercial fisherman recommended to us, Mike Newman. We called Mike and told him we needed to catch lemon sharks, he responded with “how many do you want”. Since that moment the lemon shark project has been a huge success. After speaking to Isa for 10 minutes today, we strongly believe that he is our Sudanese Mike Newman. Nige and I are very positive now and think we are going to have good success too. We will let you know how we get on.
Finally this afternoon I walked around the edge of the lagoon in front of the base. I saw many baby guitar fish fleeing from the water’s edge as I walked by. I think it is at least a nursery for these. On the way back I saw one that did not flee. Two minutes later I was feeling pretty stupid from spending that time trying to sneak up on what turned out to be a dead guitar fish. Still apart from that one it is good to see a productive and healthy environment.