Mariano’s Marine Memo: Swallows Into the Storm
| June 22, 2010

It is the day of Monday, May 3, 2010 … or in fact during the night … almost the 4th as we head toward Mahon on Menorca, an island in the Balearic archipelago. Since we sailed into the Mediterranean the weather has not been so nice to us … only a few hours of sun and a lot of rain, practically every day. The temperature has dropped down to 16° Celsius … but it is fine. First, it is springtime, the wonderful spring of Europe, and second, it does not disturb me so much, as after 6 months in the Caribbean where the coldest day was 27° I need some chilly air … at least for a couple of weeks.

But tonight we are facing the worst storm of my period on board. Wind force 9 on the Beaufort scale with a sea swell of 6 to 7 meters. Everything is on the floor. My precious collection of sea urchin skeletons has gone … the two and a half kilogram Marine Biology Book just landed on the top of the small paper box holding the fragile calcium carbonate structures. Such a horrible night … we lose a couple of sails … they ripped like old nose tissue during the strong winds that had gusts up to 61 knots. The china from the dining room and the glasses in the bar suffered a similar fate. We count the missing sick bags during the morning (hehehe).

But … and there is always a but after every storm of any kind … on the sea and in life … something happened the morning after. The sea is still rough, the waves around us still big and the rock and roll of the Royal still makes someone disappear once in a while with some sick bags, but with the first sunshine we discover some new guests on board. Some will call them “sin papier” “sin papeles” “clandestine” … moving from one country to the other without any documents, no need for stamps or visas in a passport, free like the wind, no border lines for them.

A very small group, or more correctly, a tiny Flight of Swallows, landed during the night on the Royal Clipper.


Under their scientific classification, swallows belong to the family Hirundinidae of the order Passeriformes. It is likely they were rossing from the northern parts of West Africa, such as Mauritania, Western Sahara and Morocco, to Europe, when they were hit by the storm. And so they took shelter with us — in the Tropical Bar, all over the rigging, down the lights into the wire boxes, on the top of the Zodiacs.


We are not Customs, demanding and exercising their duties, there is no-one to ask for documents, we let them take a rest. We shut down the lights and music and speak silently for two days. The lucky ones managed to fly away in Calvì, northwest of Corsica … another day, another migration, another country. They will spend the summertime in a European country, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Eastern countries, and some of them even as far east as the United Kingdom.

If you survive travelling such long way, in a storm of such force and intensity and you are so small you can stay in my hand, you well-deserve all my admiration. No technological radar for you, no deck hands to help during the strong winds, no warm coffee in the night, my true respect goes to these princesses of the sky. My springtime will be more pleasurable knowing that we helped some of your sisters with a simple, safe, quiet passage on the Royal Clipper.

Take care my friends.

Mariano Peruzzo
Marine Biologist
Royal Clipper
May 6th 2010 Calvì, Corsica, France territory.

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  1. Nancy Briechle Said,

    June 25, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

    I was there and saw those beautiful Swallows up close. One landed on my head and stayed there for about 20 minutes ( no he didn’t poop on my head). My husband held one in his hand for a long time and when he wanted to let him go, the swallow crept up into the hollow of his palm and didn’t want to leave. I’m hoping our swallow friends made it to land. They were an unexpected joy and a bright spot in a rough storm.

  2. KLarissa Said,

    July 17, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    From Russia…
    2010 Flight of Swallows in Kalinigrad -10 may (near Biological Station Rybachy belongs to the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg )=”Vogelwarte Rossitten” was the world’s first institution to start the large scale ringing of birds.
    P.S.Thank you Mariano for this post,I am :(…Sorry

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