At Sea, towards the Falkland Islands

Mar 03, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer


As we continued to grind our way along towards the Falklands, the weather calmed–beckoning the re-emergence of faces unfamiliar from the day before. A happy bustle overtook the ship, replacing the previous ominous threat of seasickness. The morning started well with some sighting success—southern right whales spotted for a second time from the Bridge! A fantastic last goodbye to the waters of South Georgia.

The bathymetry of the area over which we were traveling was particularly interesting; a subduction zone between the South American and Scotia plate has created a huge deep trough, so we made our way over incredibly deep water. Many fantastic bird species greeted us on our journey—great shearwaters, soft plumage petrels, and juvenile black-browed, grey-headed, and wandering albatross all paid a visit. Perfect timing then for a talk on the birds of the Falklands by naturalist Santiago. Santi’s excellent talk not only covered some of the beautiful birdlife that we are hoping to encounter but also a now sadly extinct and very mysterious fox, the warrah—a species driven to extinction by the first settlers to the islands.

Following Santi’s bird talk we were treated to a second lecture, on the fascinating geology of this wonderful part of the world, given by our photo instructor David. He explained through the medium of wonderful graphics, how the seabed and exposed islands were formed, millions of years ago. He even covered the very subduction zone that we were traveling over.

Then we were treated to a wonderful lunch with lovely salads and such. Even on the roughest of days, when some people are finding a moment to rest, the National Geographic Explorer crew are still working hard. Sonny, who works in the dining room, zipped between tables happily smiling and chatting to people, depositing drinks, and taking orders. Around the corner, Riza was on reception, answering questions, directing queries and sorting out any problems that people may have had.

After lunch we were treated to two more excellent presentations, the first from our expedition leader, Russ on what life is like on the Falklands. The second, a beautiful homage to his father, Sir Edmund Hilary by our guest speaker, Peter Hilary. The subject was his father’s famous first assent of Mt Everest.

Meanwhile, up on the Bridge, watch was being kept by Brian, one of National Geographic Explorer’s able-bodied seamen. Brian is famously sharp-eyed and although he loves the Antarctic, his favourite destination is the Arctic, where he enjoys the challenge of spotting polar bears. Another person busily working away around the ship is IT Michael, pictured here, busily working away in the server room. Especially on sea days, it is of paramount importance that the internet works, so that everyone can send home beautiful photos of whales to their loved ones.

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About the Author

Ella Potts

Naturalist

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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