Adventures on the Black Dolphin, Part 2

It was another fabulous wind-swept day to kick off Term 2 on the Black Dolphin. The first group of students to visit with us are from TCI and this time, we are in luck because it did not rain. The windy day did however see us run for  the shelter of the beach at South Bay. The students really enjoyed swimming and fossicking on the beach.


Next to visit were THS second graders who came to us as we were tied up alongside the Aberdeen Boat Club (ABC). They had been studying simple food chains in class. At the ABC, they identified several species of predatory marine birds. By trawling with our plankton net and using field microscopes onboard the Black Dolphin, they were able to identify plant (phytoplankton) and animal (zooplankton) plankton that they had caught. They also learned about symbiosis when they examined the coral and found a type of algae living in their tissue which helps it to survive. They also learnt about a fungal infection that can create “zombie” ants.

One of the reasons why the Black Dolphin is such a great classroom is not only do students get to interact with the environment but they are also experiencing the learning with all their senses.  We did a harbour tour in the Black Dolphin with Grade 3 students to teach them about specific types of marine pollution and their impact on the marine environment. We pointed out the types of broken fishing gear such as long lines and drift nets that litter the ocean and continue killing marine species for decades until they eventually decay and break up. We then sailed to Mo Tat Wan on Lamma Island and looked at the type of rubbish washed up on the beaches there. Finally students visited the fish farm operations in the area and discussed the pros and cons of such aquaculture.

Our next Black Dolphin adventure took us to in Long Harbour in Sai Kung for four days in support of a group of middle and high school students participating in a marine science project run by Hong Kong University’s Swire Institute of Marine Science (SWIMS). MarineGeo is a major biodiversity assessment project that uses settlement structures referred to as ARMS, to build up and monitor biodiversity. Our students were very helpful in this labour intensive effort to help build up the inventory and genetic database of marine biodiversity in Hong Kong.

Teaching children about marine pollution in Hong Kong can be challenging because some, especially the very young, may find it boring and yet it’s really important to discuss the devastating impact. So we were pleasantly surprised by the great reception and interest we received from our Prep students at Harbour Village when we were there to give a talk about the causes of marine pollution in Hong Kong including ghost nets, drumlines and microplastics.

Grade 3 students returned to the Black Dolphin and this time for three days on a science investigation on simple machines which they had been studying in class. They looked at the variety of simple machines aboard including the wheel/axle and giant screw used to steer, winches, and block and pulley systems for raising the sails. They pulled themselves up the main mast on a pulley system, understanding through the simple demonstration the mechanical advantage of using a pulley and how it can be used to change the direction of applied forces and move or lift extremely heavy objects. We previewed a unit on magnets by teaching the students how to read our main steering compass and then each student had a turn to steer a compass course to reach Round Island. They also worked in teams to raise, lower and sheet in our mainsail to see how our simple machines worked in practice.

Following on, we had Grade 2 visiting to learn about practical applications of their studies on light and sound. Students checked out the Black Dolphin's navigation lights and used a working model to interpret the significance of various combinations of navigation lights as viewed at night. Students examined our International Flag signals and their meanings as well as fog horn signals and Morse code via light and sound signals.

This week, we had Grade 5 come out with us for four days looking to extend their knowledge of electricity through real-world applications aboard the Black Dolphin. They learned how to interpret tables to calculate appropriate wire sizes to manage voltage drop and resistance. Students used our battery management system to see how the length of wiring runs affects current draw. They examined our parallel battery bank installation and then experimented with battery banks in both parallel and series to see the practical applications of each type of circuit. Finally, as a reward for their hard work we sailed to Round Island for lunch and a swim.

It’s been another fun and busy term on the Black Dolphin and we are already looking forward to the next round of adventures with our students.


Don't forget, the THS Black Dolphin Crew is social and you can follow their daily adventures on Instagram here: @thsblackdolphin. You can also stay in the know about Hong Kong ecosystems and marine science education at the THS Marine Science Center by following them on Instagram here: @marinesciencecenter_ths.

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