Voyage of the Odyssey Voice from the Sea
What is the Voyage of the Odyssey Track the Voyage Interactive Ocean Class from the Sea Patrick Stewart
> Odyssey Logs -
Search by Region
- Atlantic Ocean
- Mediterranean Sea
- Mauritius
- Sri Lanka
- Maldives
- The Seychelles
- Indian Ocean
- Australia
- Papua New Guinea
- Kiribati
- Pacific Passage
- Galapagos Islands
> Odyssey Logs - Search by Topic
> Odyssey Video
> Current Location - Map
> A Day in the Life
> Meet the Crew
site map  
Sri Lankan Fisherman have a closer look as the Odyssey approached Colombo.
Photo: Pernille Frederikson

April 7, 2003
Arrival in Sri Lanka

Log Transcript

The Odyssey crew concluded research in Maldivian waters after collecting 41 tissue samples from sperm whales over a three-month period. Our time spent in the region proved to be very successful with 77 group sightings of marine mammals, consisting of 14 different species.

After a weeklong passage from Male, the crew conducted a brief research leg in Sri Lankan waters prior to checking into the port city of Colombo. With only a few days at sea, we were treated to a sample of what we are hoping to see over the coming months.

Sri Lanka first became the focus of international attention in the early 1980's when it was document through international cetacean researchers, Hal Whitehead, Jonathan Gordon and Roger Payne that there was an unusual occurrence of great whales off its coasts. The crew have been looking forward to coming to Sri Lanka since the Voyage began over three years ago.

A Hindu Temple.
Photo: Pernille Frederikson

Our expectations were quickly surpassed last week when we observed five species of cetaceans in a single day only twelve miles from shore, including a sighting of a Bryde's whale mother/calf pair only 100 meters off the bow of Odyssey. Over the course of the afternoon, Risso's, Fraser's and bottlenose dolphins crossed our path and before sunset we even encountered the most extreme of all cetaceans, the blue whale.

Sri Lanka is unique in that it is home to the elephant, the largest terrestrial mammal on earth, while the surrounding waters are inhabited by the largest marine mammal, the blue whale. Even though they are the largest creatures on land, six elephants could fit comfortably inside the mouth of a blue whale, the largest animal ever to inhabit the earth.

Upon their discovery in such numbers, the word quickly spread about Sri Lanka's whales. Interested scientists and eager tourists began to flock here to see the animals. Unfortunately most activities were halted in the mid-eighties due to civil unrest.

Today, almost twenty years later with the peace process underway, people are slowly beginning to turn their attention toward the whales once again. Mr. Razik Zarouk of the National Aquatic Resources, Research and Development Agency (NARA) recently stated "The silence of guns brings back the sounds of whales in Sri Lankan waters."

The crew begin to get their bearings in the city of Colombo as we prepare for our next research leg. We are overwhelmed at times by the hustle and bustle of the busy streets, three wheelers navigate and dart their way through traffic with seemingly impossible skill and precision. As always we are enjoying the opportunity to meet new people, experience a new culture and learn as much as we can from the local community about their marine environment.

Sri Lanka is a relatively small country situated at the southern tip of the vast Indian subcontinent. At only 66,000 square kilometres, it is smaller than the state of West Virginia. At about 350 kilometers (217 miles) long and almost 180 kilometers (112 miles) wide at its widest point, it sustains a population of over 19 million people. The majority of the population is made up of Sinhalese, with a lesser percentage of Tamils. The primary language is Sinhalese, though most speak English as a second language, while the dominant religion is Buddhism. Magnificent, intricately carved temples of various religions including Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian adorn the streets, surrounded by boisterous vendors and crowded shopping malls.

Pernille on a trishaw, the main form of transport in Colombo.
Photo: Peter Madsen

From what we have experienced so far, the people are overwhelmingly friendly, the food is spectacular (if you like it spicy) and we are told that it is not only the sea that is teeming with wildlife. There are numerous exotic and endemic species to be found on the island including the revered Indian elephant. These animals hold a special cultural significance and are the focus of numerous celebrations and festivals. The profusion of biodiversity includes leopards, sloth bears, macaques, deer, cobras and crocodiles, scattered among spectacular tropical rainforest, highlands and grasslands, rivers, wetlands and lagoons.

We look forward to sharing our experiences with you over the coming months. This is Genevieve Johnson from Colombo, Sri Lanka.


  • What did the crew of the Odyssey report on one year ago in Australia? Two years ago in Papua New Guinea?

    Written by Genevieve Johnson

> Home > Voice from the Sea > What is the Voyage? > Track the Voyage > Interactive Ocean > Class from the Sea > Patrick Stewart > Help with Plugins? > Site Map