Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

Feb 26, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer


Days at sea are wondrous experiences —especially after a good night’s rest, helped no doubt by the gentle motion of the ship.

We are navigating towards South Georgia. Throughout the day we sailed over the Scotia Sea, bordered deep down by the Scotia Plate which made up the seabed below us. For much of the day, the depth below the keel of National Geographic Explorer oscillated between 6,500 and 9,850 feet.

The calm conditions allowed many of us to venture up to the Bridge and the open decks to catch some fresh sea air and search for pelagic seabirds and marine mammals. By the end of the day we spotted 20 species of seabird and four marine mammals.

As one gazes out at the vastness of the ocean the first impression is the absence of life. But this is a mirage. One must persevere, one must be patient, our untrained eyes must become accustomed to the colors to pick out the well-camouflaged smaller seabirds that have made these remote waters their home. The albatrosses are easier to spot as they effortlessly move towards the ship from afar and as quickly as they appear, they disappear from sight. It helps us comprehend and appreciate a little more the incredible adaptations of the creatures with which we share this blue planet.

This means that these waters are rich in other life forms which sustain the animals, both seen and unseen by us. Days like these help us better understand how small we are and how poor we are at picking up the aromas and signs which the remarkable creatures we have seen today do so well.

Then one might look up and try to take in the vast skies seemingly melting into the ocean at the horizon and then rising up above us. Today there were lots of different clouds which swirled into gorgeous patterns leaving us speechless at so much beauty and the sheer enormity before our eyes.

 

Let us allow a poet to conclude our magical day at sea.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

 

“Sea Fever” by John Masefield

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About the Author

Edward Shaw

Naturalist

Edward Shaw has travelled widely as a naturalist and guide. For the past 29 years he has lived with his family in northwestern Patagonia, initially working as a teacher and subsequently working in community projects before returning to expedition ships. Edward is deeply committed to the principles behind sustainable development. He is happily married and the father of five children.

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