The Extraordinary Ocean Sunfish

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Alboran Sea, Mediterranean, beginning of July 2019

Many believe that there is not much life left to see in the Mediterranean Sea. A conclusion I've heard many times. But during our several voyages through this body of water, we have experienced the opposite.

Being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and also among the busiest shipping routes, it might indeed be a crowded place at times, especially along the coast. But beneath the surface there is still plenty of amazing marine life to both adore and protect!





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The photos in this blogpost are from our recent time in the Alboran Sea, in western Mediterranean, where we, among many other sea creatures, spotting Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) almost every day.




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The sunfish is a very strange-looking creature and one of the heaviest known bony fishes in the world, typically weighing between 250 and 1000 kg. (Recorded weight up to 2300 kg!)





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A mature sunfish has an average length of 1,8 meters and a fin-to-fin length of 2,5 meters, but is said to sometimes reach up to incredible 3,3 meters in length and 4,2 meters across the fins.

Sharks and rays can be both bigger and heavier, but they are cartilaginous fish, having skeletons made of cartilage, rather than bone.





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During our sailings, in both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, we have encountered many sunfishes in  different sizes. This recent week, in western Mediterranean, has been exceptionally good as we more or less have had daily sightings of this very special fish. Many of them are often a bit shy though and will therefore not let anyone come close.




Busy feeding, this individual did however not mind our company at all.



Despite their size and odd look, the sunfish pose no threat to human. They are actually very peaceful creatures, spending most of their time feeding on small fish, squid, crustaceans, jellyfish and salps. 

Normally slow-moving, but if needed this pelagic fish can speed up and even jump out of the water! A behaviour  we have witnessed both last year and again this summer.






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The Mola mola population is considered vulnerable. Bycatch being a big threat for the species as they frequently are captured as bycatch in many fisheries using long lines, drift gillnets, and midwater trawls.

Again human trash is another problem when the sunfish, like so many other marine species, easily mistakes drifting plastic debris for food.



What an amazing time we have together with this magnificent individual who keeps feeding just beneath the surface, slowly swimming around both us and the boat.

This make me think about the big amount of debris and ghost nets that are drifting in the oceans causing brutal and silent suffering to the amazing life beneath the waves. We all can do something against this.

Pick up the trash you see, remove ghost nets, clean a beach, consume less and inspire others. Small actions might not save the world, but will mean the world for individuals. Be that hero, help our aquatic friends!







Alboran Sea - A Dolphin Paradise

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Alboran Sea, Mediterranean, June/July 2019

We are in the Alboran Sea, which is the most westerly part of the Mediterranean Sea, positioned between Morocco/Algeria and Spain.




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Here our aim is to film more dolphins for our ongoing film project. The recent beautiful weather conditions have allowed us to spend a good week out at sea without getting back to land.





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At night time we drift. Even during some of the days we keep drifting, waiting for the marine life to come to us…







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Especially after sunset, the dolphins seem very curious about this slowly, drifting sailboat, giving us repetitive visits all night long...






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Not one day passes without several sightings of big dolphin groups. The Alboran Sea truly is a paradise for dolphin enthusiasts!

Some individuals come to say hello when we are drifting, while others prefer to swim along when the boat is on the move.






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Being a transition zone between ocean and sea, the Alboran Sea contains of a mix of both Mediterranean and Atlantic species.

The Alboran Sea is one of the richest biodiversity points in the Mediterranean, but is also one of the busiest shipping routes…





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We encounter huge groups of highly active and curious Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba)...






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... the bigger Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) also give us several playful visits...






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... so does the beautiful Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis).






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In further distance, we also observe a group of Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) and a Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris).




Yet, we haven't seen a single fin of the species we currently are looking for, the Pilot whales.






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After many days and nights out on this diversity rich body of water…





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… they suddenly appear, curiously approaching our yacht!






Starting up with some few animals, more and more pilot whales appear. These are long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), a species considered to be resident species in the Alboran Sea.



These curious, highly social and very talkative dolphins are well known for their eagerness in approaching and interacting with boats. 

Unfortunately their behaviour cause their loss in the Faroe Islands where they annually are slaughtered in huge numbers. 





Fortunately all cetaceans are protected in the Mediterranean and I really hope our curious pilot whale friends won’t get the idea of leaving their blue-watered Mediterranean basin for northerly latitudes.



During our time in the Alboran Sea, we got several encounters with another, very special looking, sea creature... 

More about this in the next blog post!



Madeira - Mediterranean

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Madeira to Mediterranean, mid June 2019

Sails are set and off we go again! With an east-northeast bearing we so leave Porto Santo and Madeira behind, for this time...





Our 600 nautical miles crossing shows up being a very good one, both for the exceptional weather we are having and for the nice wildlife company we get along the way.





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In 4-5000 meters deep waters, we meet a couple of sperm whales resting at the surface between their deep dives for giant squid.




Several big groups of Atlantic spotted dolphins and Common dolphins happily join our voyaging for a while.

So fun it is to see them enjoying the speed of our boat!







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Our night shifts are lightened up by the smiling full moon. Such wonderful company she is!






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When getting closer to Gibraltar, a group of pilot whales suddenly appear next to our boat to soon thereafter disappear again. Later the same evening we also briefly encounter false killer whales. This is after sunset when the dusk light just is enough for us to tell the species.





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After 5 days of sailing we so enter the Mediterranean. In hope for more aquatic encounters, we now look forward to spend more time on the Alboran Sea. Who knows what meetings that await us here...