Drake Passage

Feb 17, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer


The early hours of this morning aboard the National Geographic Explorer were animated as we experienced a rendition of the ‘Drake Shake”. Undeterred, we pressed South bound for the Antarctic Circle. As the day progressed and our sea legs began to grow the seas mercifully subsided. Some brave souls ventured to the back deck with our year of the bird ambassadors and were rewarded with amazing views of soaring sea birds who were seemingly playing in the wind and waves. Prions, giant petrels and the majestic wandering albatross were all sighted. These interactions were documented using ebird and iNaturalist apps as we continue to harness citizen scientists to describe the distribution patterns of sea birds on our Drake Passage crossings.

With the afternoon upon us, the sea state calmed and sun broke through the low cloud. The Bridge team spotted a pod of long fin pilot whales. We rushed to the bow with cameras and telephoto lens. The pilot whales had other ideas, soon they entire pod including some calves were riding out bow wake. Telephoto lens gave way to wide angles and iPhones.

In the dim twilight of post dinner, National Geographic Explorer did the seemingly impossible.

With just enough light to reveal their patterning, a pod of Type D killer whales interrupted our southbound progress. With a dense flock of sea bird overhead the pod appeared to be feeding. Encountering these killer whales was a career wildlife highlight for many of the naturalist team.

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About the Author

Jimmy White

Naturalist

Jimmy has been coordinating education and research teams for national universities, international non-government organizations, and documentary companies for more than 10 years. Jimmy’s expertise lies in the coordination and implementation of field education and remote area research.

About the Photographer

Eric Guth and Jamie Coleman

Eric Guth and Jamie Coleman

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