Lindblad Expeditions - From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica - Richard White, Naturalist; Photo: Michael Nolan, N
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From the National Geographic Endeavour in Antarctica

Dec 2, 2007 - National Geographic Endeavour

Rockhopper Penguins in the Middle of the Drake Passage
Drake Passage

Since our departure from Ushuaia yesterday evening we have steamed down the Beagle Channel, turned south and headed out into the open Southern Ocean bound for Antarctica. There can be few voyages on the planet as filled with as much anticipation as the one that we are making. The body of open water between South America and Antarctica is known as the Drake Passage, a region with a reputation for stormy weather and rough seas. A reputation that is no doubt deserved, for sometimes the weather systems moving through the area from the west create some unpleasant conditions. But, more often, the Drake is kinder than its reputation would suggest and this is how we found it today.

While crossing the Drake there is ample time for rest and recuperation, assuming that the seas are not so rough. The enforced sea-days of the crossing are not so much a trial as an opportunity for making the transition from South America to a new continent. To learn and absorb information from our team of Naturalists that will enhance our experiences on the White Continent.

And there is also the chance to participate in the constant vigil for wildlife maintained from the bridge. It is hard to know what will be seen during a crossing of the Drake. On most days the masters of the wind dominate and the skies are full of a diverse array of petrels, from the tiny storm-petrels to the huge wandering albatross with wingspan of 3.3 metres; just one of five species of albatross seen today. In calmer seas it is possible to see penguins, whales or dolphins. Today we briefly glimpsed rockhopper penguins between swells; an unusual sighting and even more difficult to photograph. A distant group of killer whales did not come close enough for all to appreciate. But as brief as the sightings were, they reinforce the fact that these animals are out there to be found, and encourage us to continue our efforts tomorrow in the hope of more sightings.

About the Author

Richard White·Naturalist

Richard was born and grew up near Portsmouth on the south coast of England.  An avid birder from an early age, he soon developed an interest in other areas of natural history, although birds remain his primary interest.  Despite being told that bird watching was not a 'proper’ job, he always wanted to turn his hobby into a career.  After graduating from Plymouth with a degree in biological sciences he started work researching the impact of oil and gas exploration on seabird populations, initially in European waters and then in waters around the Falkland Islands, where he lived for three years.