Saudacoes de Brasil,
We spent the first remarkable week of a work trip to Brazil to further our efforts in
the mitigation of ship strikes on whales on the long coastline of this vast nation.
After being met at the Sao Paolo (population 23 million) airport by our dear friend Marcel Morais who has been four times with us to see the blue whales of Baja, we drove two hours into the mountains to visit one of my dearest friends from my years on the professional tennis tour, Brazil's former #1 player Carlos Kirmayr.
Carlos and I had not seen one another for many years, and he now runs an academy for tennis in the hills of rural Serra Negra.
Our reunion was fabulous, full of rich memories, and as we were treated like family, a great way to begin our trip in Brazil.
On our way there Delphi and I got to stop and get a long visit observing close up many of the world's largest rodents, the capybaras.
From Serra Negra, we moved on with Marcel at the helm through the very impressive Atlantic Forest down to the coast at Sao Sebastao, and then by ferry over to the stunning mountainous island of Ilhabela.
Here we met our host and companion for the remainder of the trip Jose Truda from the Instituto Baleia Jubarte and their
local citizen science expert Julio Cardasco. The following day all of us went to a formal meeting at the largest oil terminal/port in all of Latin America run by Trans Petro which is a part of the Brazilian giant oil company of Petrobras. This port receives oil, processes oil, and exports oil. It is enormous, and all of this happens in and around waters full of whales (humpbacks, Southern right, and Brydes) for part of the year, and full of people that love these whales.
Here the GWC's Whale Guardians Project had made a seven-page proposal to direct ships into and out of port in the safest manner we were able to, so as to minimize to the greatest extent possible any and all whale strikes in the future.
Trans Petro had all their managers both local and regional present, and they welcomed warmly and with much fanfare.. They actually were thankful
to us all for giving them the opportunity with our expertise to be the best stewards they could be for the whales of their region.
They then gave us a full tour (hard hats and all) of the entire complex while explaining how everything worked.
They openly accepted our guidelines. We then all proceeded to the entrance of their very large complex where they have a historical timeline of the development of the port from breaking ground many years ago to today.
There I handed them the proposal, and they added it's implementation and a picture of a humpback (taken by Julio) to the timeline on the wall.
Honesty after working so hard for so many years I had to tell myself countless times during this truly remarkable day that I was in fact
not dreaming. The best part of this all is finally in this beautiful region we are saving large whale lives!
After a short but sweet meeting with Luciano Candisani who is a passionate and talented photographer and a fierce defender of Brazil's unique Pantanal region, and a long wind delay to catch the car ferry back to the continent, we moved on to catch our flight to Vitoria.
Day one in Vitoria was a visit to Santa Teresa. WIth Baleia Jubarte's Vitoria manager Paolo Rodrigues at the helm we took a scenic two hour drive through the hills full of coffee and banana plantations to visit the home, forest, and gardens, of perhaps the world's most renowned hummingbird expert Augusto Ruschi, who was also known as the "Hummingbird Man".
I read a lot about Ruschi when I was quite young, being keenly interested in hummingbirds from an early age.
Here in Santa Teresa they have a dazzling array of hummingbird species and a spectacular and very diverse forest.
And they have toucans which we saw, as well as stingless bees. These are honey producing bees that do not sting, so I visited their boxes/hives,
and got swarmed by hundreds of bees all around my head, never once getting stung.
Next day it was back to work. First task was to go see the whales of Vitoria. In wintertime here in the Southern Hemisphere all the humpbacks that feed in Antarctica migrate up to these warmer latitudes to court, mate, birth, and rear their calves. So in August, they have a lot of whales here!
For me, hummingbirds one day and whales the next is pretty close to a perfect combination.
Then came today when we visited with executives from IMETAME who are building a new port complex 60 kilometers north of Vitoria, in Aracruz.
We are now working with them and Baleia Jubarte to create a safe passage for all ships coming to their port so as to avoid the largest concentrations of whales while doing so. This will be a first as our proposal will become a part of the development and opening of this complex.
During their presentation, I was greatly impressed by learning about their nurseries that literally surround the port complex, and the vast numbers of trees they are growing to reforest the region, including in areas where there are indigenous populations.
This was followed up by a meeting with VALE a giant iron pellet and sheet producing company whose head office is here in Vitoria and who run their very own port here. VALE has trains running full of ore from Brazil's iron-producing region in Minas Gerais state right to the port in Vitoria.
As VALE runs their own port they do not have to go anywhere to fully implement any proposal we make for the protection of the whales.
And what made this meeting even more important was that we learned they run other ports in Brazil and others internationally.
So this hopefully will become a very fruitful partnership for them and us, and of course for the whales.
More on this as VALE has their internal discussions after our meeting. For now suffice to say the meeting went very well.
Enough writing for now. We are off to Caravelas tomorrow, and then to a small archipelago 35 miles offshore (Abrolhos Islands) that
every August is full of whales. We have heard amazing things about this place and can't wait to go there.
Big thanks go to our friends at Baleia Jubarte for their friendship, support, and guidance!!!!!
Brazil blog 2 coming next week, with a promise to have images of some of Brazil's whales.
Images are of in order:
A lovely orange butterfly spent a minute fluttering around the head of this capybara
Grazing capybara's with no concern about being near to a seated Michael - by Delphi
The tennis tour literally brought me a world of friends, here with my close mate Carlos Kirmayr
Delphi at work at the Kirmayr Tennis Academy among the hills of Serra Negra
In hardhats to save whales! Here with the Transpetro/Petrobras team inside the port at Sao Sebastiao
Delphi photographed/filmed the entire visit to the terminal at Sao Sebastiao
Michael and Jose Truda celebrate a huge victory for the whales inside the Sao Sebastiao terminal
The ceremonial handover of the Whale Guardians Proposal to the director of the Sao Sebastiao terminal complex
A Frilled Coquette at Santa Teresa
Unknown named hummingbird I am calling a "Sapphire Sunbeam" at Santa Teresa
A humpback surfaces with some of the parked ships awaiting their turn at the VALE port in Vitoria
After our meeting inside the headquarters of the global iron company VALE
And finally: A celebratory boat trip to meet the whales, courtesy of Julio, at Ilhabela