Monday, August 9, 1999
Our first night on the boat was peaceful and calm. The nights are so completely dark that the captain must use a flashlight to check for the shore, flotsam and sandbars. We did run into a sandbar at 4:30 a.m. -- which is pretty common on the Amazon. The captain had to back the boat up and gun the engine really hard, waking most of us up from very deep slumber. They don't use maps because the river is ever changing.
This morning we saw our first dolphins! We all got so excited that we could barely eat our breakfast. The crew had to pull us to the table even though the food looked great. Meals are served promptly at 7:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. We reluctantly came to the table to eat fried eggs, toast, fried bananas and big glasses of papaya juice. During breakfast the only conversation heard was shouts of, "Look, there's a dolphin!" and "There's a pair!" We also learned how to say the names of the two types of dolphins we are studying. They are boto (BOW-TOE) and tucuxi (TOO-COO-SHE.)
After breakfast we learned how to do residency observations. We watched to see where the dolphins were located in the water and counted them. We saw 12 at one time during our practice session. We then took turns observing from the top deck. Four of us worked together at a time. It takes a lot of work observing dolphins. You can't take your eyes off the river even for a moment or you might miss one coming up for air.
While we are not on duty on the top deck, most people write in journals or take pictures. Susan, Tracy and Shelly work on the evening's transmission. Since the boat is not moving during this time, the crew is taking some time to learn about the computers. One crew member, Lider, said that he had only one week to learn all about computers.
The crew loves having the opportunity to learn new things that they can use in Iquitos between trips. There are three Internet cafes in town that charge a reasonable fee for hourly Internet access. Béder, one of the Peruvians, is planning on showing the other members of the crew who are interested how to set up an email account. (Béder has his account through Yahoo!)