Drake Passage

Dec 19, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

Today we saw over 10 species of seabirds in the middle of the Drake Passage. Watching them wheeling about in the stiff winds, and searching for food is fascinating. The following quote from the book A Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson describes their lives perfectly:  

"These ocean navigators do not use a magnetic map: they smell their way around the ocean. But more than that they can smell how the sea works, where the fish are. They can smell their way down the links and layers of the food web, into the presence or absence of the plankton on which they and all other sea life depend. They are not only the barometers of the sea but its investigators and navigators. What may be featureless to us, a waste of undifferentiated ocean, is for them rich with distinction and variety, a fissured and wrinkled landscape, dense in patches, thin in others, a rolling olfactory prairie of the desired and desirable, mottled and unreliable, speckled with life, streaky with pleasures and dangers, marbled and flecked, its riches often hidden and always mobile, but filled with places that are pregnant with life and possibility."

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About the Author

Conor Ryan


Hailing from Cobh in the south of Ireland, Conor Ryan grew up on the shores of Cork Harbour where his fascination with the sea led him to study zoology at University College Cork. He continued his studies in marine biology in Galway, where he completed his Ph.D. thesis on the diet and population structure of baleen whales in the Celtic Sea using stable isotope analysis. His research also brought him to Cape Verde in search of the breeding grounds of humpback whales that frequent the coasts of Ireland. However these whales have not yet given up their secret!

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