23rd firmm meeting on the 26th of February 2022 in Aarau

by firmm Team

Text: Brigitte according to notes taken by Pia Ackermann, photos: Stefan Bichsel

The 23rd firmm, meeting took place in Aarau on the 26th of February, after last year's event had to be cancelled due to the Corona pandemic. Until just beforehand, it was not yet clear how the meeting could take place. Masks? No masks? Who will be allowed to attend? How many people will come?

Katharina finally welcomes almost 200 people with the words: "It's nice that we can meet again without masks, and we therefore can see a smile.
Due to the still tense travel situation, there are no employees from Spain present this year. However, Katharina can count on numerous former volunteers to help out with sales, adoptions, and culinary service.

As usual, Sam who is member of the boards of trustees and also Katharina's son, presents the programme of the evening.

Lecture of Prof. Dra Patricia Holm

Prof. Dr. Patricia Holm is the first speaker to be on the stage to report about her adventurous journey with the icebreaker Polarstern. The research project on microplastics took her to the Antarctic for 8 weeks. To get there, due to corona reasons, an entire Lufthansa plane was chartered to bring the 100-member crew to the Falkland Islands.

One of the many aims of the expedition was to investigate whether microplastic has reached Antarctica with the strong ocean currents.

Particles were fished out with fine-meshed nets and analysed, and the faeces of seals were also examined. In 65% of the samples, microplastics from ship paint, packaging materials and fishing nets were detected.

Another focus of the research was to find out where ice fish breed. Ice fish have adapted to the cold water; they have no red blood cells, so their blood is white. With the help of a high-resolution camera and seals (which are particularly fond of searching for food deep near the nests of the ice fish), they eventually found vast numbers of nests. Each of these nests contains between 2000 and 2500 eggs.

The Polarstern was finally able to use the "birth" of an iceberg for its research purposes. The warming up of the water is creating more new icebergs. The ship was able to sail through a gap created after the break-off of a huge area of ice and take samples.

One could have listened to the exciting lecture for a long time, but at some point, the time was over.

Review of the year by Katharina Heyer

Next up was Katharina's review of the year, which she once again accompanied with beautiful videos.

The seasons of the last two years lasted only 2 and 4 ½ months respectively. In both years together, firmm had about half the tourists of a "normal" season, the sightings in 2021 were about one fifth of the sightings in 2019.

Still, there were highlights: huge schools of Stiped Dolphins and the very good Orca season 2021.
Between the 1st of July and the 29th of August there were 27 sightings of Orcas.

Jörn Selling: Orca attacks in recent years

Since firmm's biologist Jörn was not present, he sent a video that is now being shown.

The topic: the Orca attacks of the past years.

The media has commented on these events with sensational headlines. The coast guard reacted with recommendations and temporary exclusion zones.

The first attacks occurred in July 2020. The Orcas seem to attack sailing ships and inflatable boats of max. 15 metres length in packs.

After 174 attacks, we know more about the Orcas territories and routes, and it only confirms once again that Orcas have tradition and culture and are highly intelligent.

Why the Orcas attack, we don't know yet. We continue to observe.

firmm education

Heike Pahlow, who reports about the website firmm-education, is also unable to attend the meeting in person. She also sent a video, which has turned out very professionally with the support of her partner Mario Müller.

firmm.education - fueled by corona and the demand from teachers for material for homeschooling - has developed into a sought-after education portal.

There are already 27 topics related to the sea, the anthropogenic factor, and the impact on the environment. In the course of time, there will be a total of 60 themes. A wealth of well-founded information can be explored, through vividly prepared lessons with practical exercises, interactive quizzes, etc.

firmm-education has evolved into a great website with 20 times more visitors than 2 years ago.

Presentation of the board of trustees, staff and volunteers

Then, as usual, Katharina introduces the board of trustees, all the staff and the volunteers of the season 2021. There were no volunteers at firmm in 2020.

GP Challenge no legs – no limits

The next presentation was about the GP Challenge no legs - no limits, which started in Tarifa in 2020. Unfortunately, Rüdiger Böhm, one of the two sailors, had fallen ill and had to stay at home in bed. Sam stepped in and asked Lars Kyprian interesting questions about the extraordinary adventure.

The trailer for the film, which will be released in Swiss cinemas in May 2022, started the presentation.

Among other things, we can see the arrival of the boats in Tarifa and the assembly of the catamaran. Fortunately, the Spanish harbour master was able to solve all the initial difficulties. The aim of the challenge was to show that the impossible becomes possible if you only want it hard enough.

In the interview with Sam, Lars talks about the difficulties. The catamaran had to be lowered into the water with a crane, they were behind schedule because of a lot of headwind and finally they were stopped in Italy by the customs authorities due to illegal entry because of the corona restrictions. Here the journey came to an end, for no one wanted to go to jail. Lars praises the strong team spirit, they all worked hand in hand and without disputes.

The film is therefore something we can all look forward to. The premiere for patrons and sponsors is on the
20th of May in Thun. The proceeds of the give-aways (rubber bands with the logo "GP Challenge") sold at the events, cinema screenings and also at the firmm meeting will be donated to firmm. Thank you, Challenge team.

The evening comes to an end

The 23rd firmm meeting ends with Katharina once again taking the stage and closing the evening by thanking everybody who helped and supported firmm during the last two years.

We look forward to the 24th meeting on the 25th of February 2023.

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