The Drake Passage

Nov 28, 2018 - National Geographic Orion

As we headed south, the Drake Passage yielded some fantastic bird sightings! We encountered huge numbers of blue petrels, black-browed albatrosses, southern fulmars, Wilson’s storm petrels and even encountered a grey-headed albatross – a fantastic start for wildlife. We also saw our first whale blow of the voyage, although unfortunately too far off to turn off course. Hopefully more to follow over the coming days.

In the morning, the naturalist team provided their introductions and we all had our first lunch together - a nice opportunity to begin to get to know each other. After lunch, we had the mandatory safety and biosecurity briefings, a necessity before our arrival in Antarctica.

In the afternoon I delivered my talk on whaling and the whales of the Southern Ocean. Whaling had a huge impact on the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, decimating populations of blue, fin and humpback whales, to near extinction in these productive and once teaming waters. This degradation was exacted over a small period of just 55 years, which goes to show the destructive power that we can have on our marine environment. Luckily, many whale populations are now on the up, following the end of whaling and the 1986 moratorium – something that we hope to experience the signs of over the coming days.

Tomorrow we plan to head onward to Half Moon Island, a small island in the South Shetlands where we hope to encounter our first rookery of chinstrap penguins.


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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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