The first order of business, after taking the 5 AM flight from Lampedusa to Palermo, was a turtle release with the Lega Navale in Castellamare del Golfo. The Lega Navale is an organization that was explained to me as being similar to a Rotary organization, but it is completely focused on all affairs related to the sea. The particular release we did today was with a group of about 50 middle schoolers to celebrate the end of their sailing and naval education camp. There were many officials present, including the Admiral of the Italian Navy, several high ranking Coast Guard officers, the president of the Lega Navale, and a few administrators from the two Sicilian WWF reserves. Peppe was the students' teacher and the absolute kindest person, and Girolamo Culmone, who would host me for my whirlwind tour of northern Sicily, was also there. He works for the WWF Saline Trapani e Paceco salt flat reserve.
The release was beautiful and provided me with the most picturesque views of this trip so far (which is hard to believe considering the incredible natural beauty of Lampedusa!). Danny made a wonderful speech about the importance of conserving sea turtles, and how it is an excellent case example of what we, the next generation of leaders, should be doing on a broader scale as well. She also provided a brief anatomy lesson and explained the most urgent anthropogenic effects to deal with in regards to sea turtles and their survival. The military officials were very enthusiastic about cooperating with efforts to better regulate Sicilian fishing boats (a promise often heard and not always acted upon) and encouraging of the cause of conservation. I was offered a summer job for next summer in the environmental education department of the Lega Navale despite my inadequacies with the Italian language, too! Here are some pictures to give an idea of the experience as a whole!
The main event speakers, including Italian officials, the president of the Lega Navale, Daniela Freggi, and the WWF administrators
My favorite view of Italy so far - Castellamare del Golfo from the turquoise Mediterranean!
Il Capitano, Girolamo Culmone (WWF), me and Peppe Stabile (middle school civics teacher) - the best!!
You think that's exciting, but the day was only half over!! We had an INCREDIBLE lunch courtesy of the Lega Navale at an incredible restaurant, La Cambusa, right next to the Norman castle for which the town was named. The primi piati were huge and diverse, so I got a great taste (punny) of Sicilian gastronomy at its finest! They included squid, octopus, whitefish, tuna, and some veggies - all in interesting forms of skewers, fried, battered, with lime, spices etcetera. The white wine was delightful and a specialty of the region (kill me for not remembering the name...) and the secondi piati were Sicilian style (North African-influenced) fish cous cous and handmade linguine with calamari dyed black with squid ink and topped with toasted cheese. I cannot handle.
Plus there was a tour of Scopello, which used to be a tuna fish canning and selling factory and fishing town. Peppe taught us about the myths passed down through the years and their relevance to science. For example, people in the Mediterranean (as in, from ancient times) have always said that Tuna see from their left eye because they always swim clockwise. It is indeed due to small imbalances caused by the Coriolis effect of the Earth! Because they swim clockwise, they were easy to catch in the small port of Scopello because of a natural jetty - boats would run a net out from the outcrop and just encircle the tuna, forcing them against the coast and easily catching them. We also learned about the awesome fire signaling system installed by Muslim invaders centuries ago that encircles the Sicilian island along the coast. The entire island could receive the signal within 5 minutes. It is so Lord of the Rings!
Lord of the Rings-resembling fire signal tower on the little rock in the middle of the picture, Scopello
Alcamo! Shortly before I met the mayor... I think I'll just run for governor of Sicily next time I'm here considering the job offers I've gotten.
Finally, we got a short preview of Alcamo, where Girolamo's old-money-Sicilian family is from and where I would stay for the next few days. Calm and beautiful town, conveniently half an hour from all the cities/sites I'm hoping to visit!