Drake Passage

Dec 30, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

Today we saw over 15 species of seabird in the middle of the Drake Passage. Watching them wheeling about in the stiff winds, searching for food, was 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.”

  • Send

About the Author

Conor Ryan


Conor Ryan is a congenital ecologist. His career began in the late 1980s, when he developed a keen interest in intertidal ecology, undertaking almost daily field trips to the seashore across from his home in Cobh, Ireland. Though he logged significant hours searching beneath barnacle-studded rocks for eels, his publication record on this seminal research was sorely lacking because he was five years old. As he grew, so too did the size of the marine creatures that he was preoccupied with. 

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy