Drake Passage

Jan 07, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


Today has been rather eventful! Typically, a Drake Passage crossing is bumpy with grey skies and a cold breeze. Today however the sun has been out, the winds have been almost non-existent and the sea has been relatively calm! Because the sea is so tranquil we were able to spot a large group of long-finned pilot whales. Even better - the captain could turn the ship so we could get a good view of them- a pretty rare marine mammal and incredible to see at such close range. While we slowed down, a group of albatross were performing a ritual in the water only 30m from our ship.

Today has also been busy in terms of briefings - so far we have covered kayak safety, Zodiac safety, Antarctic landing etiquette and guidelines, photo sessions and an amazing lecture on seabirds of the southern ocean. We also all have now been “decontaminated” so can now land on Antarctica with the knowledge that we are far less likely to bring any invasive species to the white continent.

This evening also marks an important event- We enter the Antarctic! Biologically speaking anyway. Where the cold polar oxygen rich waters of Antarctica meet the warmer waters of the Atlantic, mixing occurs and typically a spike in primary production (photosynthetic growth) which encourages organisms to graze on these marine plants which then continues up the food chain to whales and seabirds. This meeting point of water or convergence also acts as a barrier to many organisms who cannot survive the temperature difference. Thus the Southern Ocean has a large number of unique species displaying unusual characteristics and adaptations... Stay posted for more info!

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About the Author

Peter Webster

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

Born in Scotland, Peter became fascinated with nature and wildlife from a very young age. This early interest led to him earning a degree in conservation biology followed shortly after by an M.Sc in marine and fisheries ecology. He is currently studying for another M.Sc in digital mapping. After working as a commercial diver for several years Peter was offered the position of Field Diving Officer with the British Antarctic Survey in 2012. He then spent the next 16 months in the Antarctic, stationed at Rothera Research Station, on the peninsula where he managed the dive operations and a team of scientific divers working on a wide range of research on climate change, ocean acidification, and increased seabed disturbance by icebergs. As well as diving Peter also spent several months in the Antarctic deep field working in aircraft operations, depot laying, and meteorological work whilst living in tents in conditions below -30oC. 

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