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After sailing almost 900 miles from Zakynthos, Greece - the Odyssey arrived in Genoa harbor, Italy.
Photo : Chris Johnson

September 20, 2004
Arrival in Genoa, Italy
Real Audio Report

Log Transcript

Ten days ago, the Odyssey left Zakynthos, Greece embarking on a 900 nautical mile passage to Genoa, Italy.

During the first few days crossing the southern Ionian Sea, the crew experienced harrowing conditions - 40 knot winds, 6 foot (2 meter) swells and electrical storms battered the boat and crew for nearly 48 hours, while an unexpected bombardment of marble sized hail stones shredded our mainsail.

The storm eventually passed and the southern coastline of Italy emerged. It wasn't long before we entered the calm Strait of Messina - a narrow passage between Sicily and the 'toe of the boot' that is mainland Italy. A highly controversial project is commencing in 2005 to connect the island of Sicily and mainland Italy with what will be the world's longest suspension bridge at 3.7 kilometers in length.

During the passage to Italy, the mainsail was shredded due to a bombardment of marble sized hail stones.
Photo : Chris Johnson

The Strait is a well-known migration route for many species of cetaceans, fishes and birds. Concern is focused on the dumping sight of the estimated eight million tons of soil that will be dug up to accommodate the two 382-meter support towers, scientists and environmentalists are concerned the delicate marine ecosystem will be completely destroyed. To make matters worse, the area is prone to earthquakes.

After 20 nautical miles, the Strait opens out into the southern Tyrrhenian Sea, an area thick with fishing vessels and fishing gear including long lines, trawl nets and illegal driftnets. This region is notorious for sperm whale entanglements.

This area is also known for its volcanic islands. Just before sunset, we passed by the active volcanic island of Stromboli. A massive eruption in 1930 saw most of the islands 5000 residents' leave permanently. Today only 400 residents remain, taking their chances and braving the threat of an eruption. The eastern side is green with a scattering of white houses, while the western side is black and scarred from volcanic activity. The most recent eruption took place in April 2003 showering the town with rocks - yet the residents still remain. As we sailed by, geezers of glowing molten lava spewed from the summit. It was a spectacular view.

In contrast to our experiences in the Ionian Sea, conditions in the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas were clear and calm and we traveled swiftly toward our destination in the north.

Five miles off the island of Capraia, we sighted a school of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). The group of eight included the largest individuals for this species the crew has sighted on the expedition. At least two in the group were an estimated ten feet in length.

The unusual style of world-renowned architect Lorenzo Piano gave the tired waterfront and old medieval city of Genoa a brilliant face-lift combining modern and medieval styles.
Photo : Chris Johnson

After 5 days and 500 miles traveling north on an uncharacteristic mirror-like sea through the Tyrrhenian, past the east coasts of Sardinia and Corsica, and into the Ligurian Sea, we arrived in Genoa.

Genoa - Genova as it is known in Italian - was founded in the 4th century BC. and straddles 30 kilometers of Italy's most alluring strip of Mediterranean coastline - the Italian Riviera. A Roman port that later became a maritime Republic, Genoa was also the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The city may have had a grander story to tell had it listened to Columbus' ideas of maritime exploration in the 15th century, rather than forcing him to turn to Spain. Spain later became a Renaissance superpower on the back of the wealth found in the 'New World'.

Genova lost some of its gloss over the centuries but was given new life in the early 1990's when world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, restored it to its former glory, transforming the ancient harbor. Piano gave the tired waterfront and old medieval city a brilliant face-lift. The crew is enjoying exploring the labyrinth of carrugi (dark, narrow stone alleys), grand piazzas, museums, and gallerias. In the old city, you may enter banks whose walls are lined with frescoes and department stores with centuries old statues inside, while the boutiques, cafe's and trattoria's offer infinite opportunities to shop and sample fine, traditional Genoese fare.

This year, Genoa stepped back into the limelight when it was named European City of Culture for 2004 showcasing innumerable magnificent Renaissance palaces, medieval cathedrals, churches built by ruling rival families, and works of art by masters such as Rubins, Caravaggio and Van Dyck.

The stone streets of the old city are lined with boutiques, cafe's and trattoria's
Photo : Chris Johnson

After only a few days in port, the weather changed once again as is typical of the northern Mediterranean at this time of year. Force 7 seas and gale force winds confined Odyssey to port, which frustrated the crew. Fortunately over the weekend, the gale warning ceased allowing the Odyssey to embark on it first research leg in the Ligurian sea in search of whales.

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in Italy.


Log written by Genevieve Johnson.

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