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May 30, 2011

Åland Islands

BY: Christina Abel


© OCEANA / Carlos Suárez


As we were sailing from the Bothnian Sea towards the Åland Islands, the wind increased. Our plan was to go diving near a small island in the region Jomala west of the main town Mariehamn, but when we arrived the weather has turned so bad that diving in this non-sheltered area was impossible. Instead we sailed into the harbor of Mariehamn, which is located at the main island Fasta Åland, and after arriving we decided to take the zodiacs a couple of miles south east and go diving in sheltered area there. As Åland Island consists of more than 6500 islands, we were provided with maps, GPS, mobile phones and walkie-talkie – just in case we could not find our way back to the ship. The divers saw different fish species including three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), broadnosed pipefish (Syngnathus typhle) and different flatfishes. For the first time on this expedition we documented perfoliate pondweed (Potamogeton perfoliatus), a plant species that lives in both freshwater and brackish water.

Today we had time to see the area of Mariehamn. Some of us went for bird safari, because the islands have a rich bird life. We saw a couple of the oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) with three small cute chicks. The black and white parent birds protected their offspring with their noisy behavior.

After having this nice time in harbor, it is time for us to continue. We are now sailing sail south east towards the Gulf of Riga, and we are prepared for an unpleasant ride, according to the weather forecast.