Na­ture Notes

Monthly Chronicle - - Outdoor Lifestyle - NICK HODGES SEABIRDS AND SEASICKNESS

I hate boats. All that salt-spray stick­i­ness and con­stant mo­tion. It's just a pity that I feel the need to head off into the ocean search­ing for al­ba­tross and the like.

Of­ten on these reg­u­lar pelagic (seabird) jour­neys, many species of pe­trels and shear­wa­ters are seen. When fish re­mains are thrown over the side of the boat, the birds ar­rive in their dozens. Sev­eral al­ba­tross species can be present: black-browed, yel­lownosed, Buller's, and the largest of them all: the wan­der­ing al­ba­tross.

But I rarely find it fun. Within min­utes of leav­ing Syd­ney on my first seabird sor­tie I was hor­ri­bly ill: the or­deal was to last eight dread­ful hours.

On the sec­ond oc­ca­sion I took ad­vice. I got a good night's sleep, ate a hearty break­fast and avoided eggs and milk. I took the seasickness tablet at the ap­pro­pri­ate time and po­si­tioned my­self on the breezy side of the boat.

Did it work? No. More­over, a squall hit us. When the boat lurched, wa­ter raced off the cabin roof, down my neck, through my shirt and trousers and into my shoes. Once again I crum­pled: cold, sick and wet.

It took me two years to re­turn: the thought of the many seabirds I'd still to see drove me back. Some­how, on that oc­ca­sion I sur­vived. I then be­gan to ride the waves reg­u­larly. The fear of ill­ness was al­ways lurk­ing but I be­gan to think I was be­com­ing a sea­soned sailor.

Un­til the 20th trip when seasickness struck again. I spent most of the day pros­trate on the floor of the storm-tossed craft. Oc­ca­sion­ally I'd heave my­self up to gog­gle at some of the day's birds be­fore col­laps­ing once more.

You might think, that be­cause I've seen most of the species to be found in the South­ern Ocean, I'd now be con­tent. But no, a few still elude me. And that's why I have too keep re­turning­ing to sea.

I still ha­tee boats.

Feed­ing frenzy Wan­deri ng al­ba­tross

al­ba­tross Bullers

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