An autumn day: the skies dark, bright, shiny, colorful, changing… the sea beneath…in all shades of blue….navy, sapphire, cyan and turquoise…Byzantine,Cerulean, Egyptian, Persian, Celtic, Oxford,Prussian and so on until midnight (blue)!!! Sailing with my visiting father and his wife…from the port of Pylos with the tableau vivant fisherman (a photo above) and a view of the Neokastro Frankish castle……on a long awaited boat trip to Sapienza, an island opposite southern coast of the town of Methoni and its Venetian castle…Sapienza (or Sapientza) is the second largest island of the Messinian Oinousses, a group of islands which consist of Schiza, Sapientza and Agia Marina and Venetiko. Sapienza covers a total area of 8,500 acres, with 6.5 km length and approximately 250 meters width, from the location Lemos up to 2 km in the northern part. It is administratively part of the municipality of Pylos-Nestor. Its name is of Italian origin and it means wisdom. The Calypso Deep, the deepest point of the Mediterranean Sea at 5,267 metres (17,280 ft), is located south-west of Sapienza.
Located on the main sea route between Italy and the Middle East, Sapienza was the favorite anchorage of every fleet; from the Ancient times throughout the Middle Ages particularly when the states of Methoni and Koroni became important trade centers of the Mediterranean. The island has seen many shipwrecks, some carrying important cargos, such as a Toman wreck that carried granite columns from the peristyle of Herod’s s temple in Caesarea Maritima. The shipwrecks around the island are so numerous and important that there are plans of creating an underwater archaeological park in the near future.
Anyway…our first stop was the Ammos beach, on the northern side of Sapienza, where we were welcomed by mouflon (ovis orientalis)* wild sheep and turquoise waters. The sea waters turned out to be summer warm…The ram was lingering on with us…curious of our activities…(the mouflon sheep as well as other animals such as pheasants were brought to the islands in 1985 and since then they have multiplied). Today, over 120 species of wild live free on the island such as: goats, pheasants, partridges, quails, doves, woodcocks, thrushes etc.
Looking towards the island on the left side of the beach there is a steep path leading through the arbutus forest and the hilltop offers great views of the area with the Methoni castle and the Proti island. After spending a long time at the beach and the forest…walking, swimming, picnic…and continuously admiring the wild sheep we have left the location of Ammos and sailed towards the southern tip of the island and its prominent lighthouse. Supposedly from its tower one can distinguish the form of a nearby tiny island which has a perfect heart shape …quite similar to the shape of the beautiful head of our goat friend …. The lighthouse was built in 1885 by the British and lit for the first time same year on 1st September. The altitude of his stone tower is 8 metres and the height of focal plane is 110 metres.We have disembarked on the rocky shores looking for a shortcut path to the lighthouse but without a tracked path it was impossible to proceed. At this point it was too late to take the designated road from Porto Logos…which is about 1.5 hour walk …It was also too late for visiting the island miracles of nature: the only Mediterranean Strawberry Tree Forest which consists of trees, not bushes that are over 10 to 12 m tall (these trees grow so much due to the isolation and the climatic conditions of the past 10,000 years. The forest and the surrounding area have been declared as a natural monument) and the site of Spartolakka, another natural phenomenon situated in the center of the island, where instead of vegetation there is an orange – yellow plateau-a peculiar rock formed by huge amounts of pollen! For scientists it constitutes the best source of information concerning the age of the forest.
So the second trip to Sapienza…(Part 2…) is inevitable and very desirable!…and for the finale let me “throw in” a few sunset images from our journey back to the Pylos marine…Sailing: Ioanian Sailing (website here)
* about mouflon wild sheep
This species is regarded as the original ancestor of today’s domestic sheep, a process that began 7000 – 11,000 years ago in southwestern Asia.
Sheep were one of the earliest domestic animals. They are now classed as a separate species, Ovis dries, although crossbreeding with wild species is still possible. Most of today’s domestic sheep are descended from the Asian mouflon, or urial (Ovis orientalis), although some breeds have ancestors that were European mouflons. The European mouflon’s original wild range was western Asia, but it was introduced to Europe thousands of years ago and now some of the few places where this species lives wild are reserves on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
Despite being the smallest wild sheep, European mouflons are sturdy animals, with a thickset neck and strong legs. Males are about 30 per cent larger than females. Adults have paler faces than the young and also grow paler with age.
The male has long, spiral horns, often with the tips curving inward; those of the female are short. It has a woolly underfleece, covered in winter by a coarse, blackish-brown top coat, with a distinctive white saddle patch in the male. In the summer this patch disappears. The female and young are gray or darker brown, with no patch.
Mouflon are active early and late in the day and do not wander far, even when food is scarce. They appear to be able to eat every type of vegetation – grass, flowers, buds and shoots of bushes and trees, even poisonous plants such as deadly nightshade, and so manage to survive.
Mouflons live in flocks. In summer the rams stay away from the ewes and young. Fights are rare and flock members seldom wander far from each other. However, this herd instinct may be due to some selective breeding in the past.
These wild sheep inhabit arid, mountainous areas. Rams live on their own, but ewes will mingle in flocks with their young. It takes up to nine years for the horns of rams to reach their maximum size, by which time they can weigh up to 5 kg (1 lib). The skull beneath is reinforced with extra bone, giving greater protection during the winter mating season when fighting between the rams is most likely to break out. Mouflon can also hybridize with domestic sheep.
Distribution: Europe, including Cyprus and Sardinia, where it has been introduced to many areas. Found in southwest Asia, extending through parts of Iran and the Caucasus region.
Habitat: Wooded areas on steep slopes.
Weight: 35 – 50 kg (89 – 110 lb); males are heavier.
Length: 127 – 195 cm (50 – 77 in), including tail; up to 90 cm (35 in) tall.
Maturity: 1 year, but may not breed for a further 2 years.
Gestation Period: 148 – 155 days.
Breeding: 1 – 2; weaning at around 120 – 150 days.
Food: Grazes on vegetation including grass and small plants in pasture.
Lifespan: Up to 20 years.
This is one of the smaller species of wild sheep.
The horns curl backwards then forwards and are only present in males.
The irises are a yellowish colour. These sheep are known for their good vision.
The ewe is more evenly coloured than the ram.
Rams are a rich, dark reddish-brown colour and have a short, glossy coat that thickens in the winter.
A FIRST CLONING SUCCESS
With a severe decline in its numbers, scientists successfully cloned the mouflon in 2001, offering hope for other endangered species.