One of the advantages of being on a boat is that a very rich marine environment, with all its underwater wonders, is right at your doorstep (swim ladder). Most of the places Clio goes in Greece and Turkey have rocky shores with sandy plateaus and often there are (Neptune or other) seagrass beds in the vicinity. That means that we often have access to the three main marine environments in the Meds.
In the Mediterranean the richness of the marine biology is not always as abundantly evident as for instance coral reefs, but once you know where and how to look, it does become a very rich place.
It really helps to get an introduction!
Apart from river mouths and in proximity of cities, the water in the Mediterranean is very low in nutrients and, as a consequence, low in planktonic life, including algae. That make the water as crystal clear as the tourist pictures so often show. The upshot is that we can explore a lot by just snorkelling. The water surface temperature between June and October is in the range of 23°C to 27°C which allows for a comfortable and enjoyable swim. To get closer to interesting finds, it helps if you can perform 'duck-dives' or are willing to learn. We recommend to buy a good mask that sticks to your face when you draw some air from it through your nose (try before you buy). A leaky mask is very annoying! We like the simplest kind of snorkel without any bells and whistles.
During snorkelling trips we can take photos and video footage and often collect smaller animals and plants for a closer examination on board. After examination on board we will put the live specimen back 'from whence they came'.
The skipper is a trained biologist (though only partially of the seasoned marine kind) with diving experience in the Mediterranean. He loves taking people on snorkeling expeditions and 'apres-snorkel' microscope sessions to examine collected specimen. He is by no means an expert in the field, but he will be happy to give beginners some background in marine taxonomy through a short(ish) presentation on board, if people are interested. A warning: he is pretty bad at identifying fish, especially the ones that have that annoying habit of swimming away just before you had a good look at them!
To help examine and identifying the creatures we encounter during our snorkel expeditions, we have hard copies of several field guides on board for fish, invertebrate animals, some more in-depth monographs, marine algae, seagrass etc.. Apart from the hardcopy books, we also have a range of electronic books, e.g. various kinds of biology, ecology, geology on file. We're in reach of telecom connections most of the time, so Clio's on-board WiFi network gives us access to very rich internet-based resources too.
Clio on-board equipment
Currently we have a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition camera and a Sony Alpha A6000 mirrorless digital camera in a Neewer underwater casing available to take pictures and video footage. In most cases this will do fine for our purpose. We now can take macro-photos and videos with both the Sony and the GoPro. The A6000 camera has limited capability to use a flash and one of these days we may need splash out on an underwater light.
We are also have a small plankton net that allows us to trawl the surface waters for 53, 100 and 250 µm phyto- and zoo-plankton fractions. (1µm or micron = one thousandth of a mm)
Up until 2016 we made do with a 6x magnifying glass to look at the specimen we found. That gave us already a good first idea of what we were looking at, but it made it hard to identify and document (taking pictures) the smaller specimen.
Since 2016 we have a research-grade tri-occular stereo microscope (Euromex NZ 1903-P), complete with a 5 Mp camera on board to help us to examine and (if lucky) identify our finds using up to about 100x magnification. The high definition camera allows us to show the material under the miscroscope on a good quality laptop screen. Very exciting!!
There are no extra costs, but please let us know if you're interested in advance. It may influence our itinerary.
All photos (except of the Euromex microscope): © 2016 F. Pantus