At Sea, Towards Ushuaia

Jan 26, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer

The day began with a thick fog that encompassed the ship and made for some tricky spotting conditions. It was the same kind of fog that has been written about by sailors in times gone by, as air and sea disagree on temperature and wrap everything in an eerie silence. Under this blanket, our photo team experimented with exciting new gizmos and gadgets on the Bridge.

We had left the peninsula behind us during the night and were now in open seas; the day ahead was a packed schedule of talks. As the fog flickered in and out, we saw once again the sea-dwelling albatross and petrels we had seen on our outward journey through the Drake.

Our first well-attended talk of the day was from our guest speaker Joe McConnell on his amazing work using ice cores from Greenland to investigate classical civilizations and their economic rise and fall. As Joe explained in fascinating detail the accuracy of the technique, the audience was left surprised and inspired.

Our second lecture of the morning was given by naturalist Andy Szabo on whales of the Southern Ocean and their evolution, cognitions, and parent-offspring conflict.

After lunch, John Pailthorpe discussed his time and experiences working at the Rothera research base, a British Antarctic Survey site, during a time when dogs were still present in the field and researchers were expected to endure some pretty adventurous conditions! In his typical jovial and laidback manner, John showed us pictures of the tiny tent that he was sent to stay in and explained that despite the significantly sub-zero temperatures, when cooking in the tent, they tended to leave the door open to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

After John’s talk we were treated to another very British experience—scones for afternoon tea and then the final lecture of the day from naturalist-turned-killer-whale-researcher on board, Jess Farrer. Jess’s passion and area of research thus far has been Weddell seals; like John, she has also worked in Antarctica, but as a scientist researching these beautiful gentle giants. She gave us an insight into the lives of all the seals that we have encountered down here and more.

The day ended as usual with Recap and a delicious dinner as we continued our journey north towards South America.

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About the Author

Ella Potts


Ella’s passion has always been in marine conservation, with a childhood spent swimming, kayaking or boating in the chilly waters of the UK, or surveying the marine life of those waters from windswept headlands. She has numerous, distinct early memories of shivering adults, wrapped up in jumpers and cagoules, looking down at her with slight horror through sheets of rain and commenting on her short sleeves. A phenomena that persists to this day.  She graduated with a Masters degree in Marine Biology: Conservation and Resource Management from Swansea University, setting her up for a career protecting those marine ecosystems that she so loves. 

Ella has worked for several British whale conservancy charities, including ORCA and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) and is a British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) marine mammal medic. She has a real passion for lecturing, and during her time in these different organizations has presented to vastly ranging audiences; from groups of young children right up to filled auditoriums at the headquarters of HWDT partner, WWF. 

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