THE FLIGHT OF THE PETREL
SEABOURN SUPPORTS UNIQUE MONITORING PROGRAM IN THE ANTARCTIC.
One of the nicest aspects of sailing in the Antarctic is the constant presence of seabirds. They dot the skies around the ship, circling closer, then veering off and shadowing its course at a distance. Small, black and white-mottled cape petrels are among the most ubiquitous, tiptoeing daintily across the sea’s surface as they land and take off. They are nicknamed “cape pigeons” for their habit of pecking busily at the water as they feed on krill. To a layman their sheer numbers would indicate a healthy population, but according to Seabourn Quest’s Argentine naturalist Dr. Juan Pablo Seco Pon, they are a valuable resource for monitoring the overall health of the region’s ecosystem.
“Cape petrels are everywhere in the Southern Ocean,” he says. “They have a low reproductive rate, mature late and live a long time. They travel widely and eat a variety of different foods. But in spite of constantly seeing individuals, we have almost no information about their movements, the effort required for them to feed, breed and so forth. We know that their population is threatened, but we don’t know exactly how and why.”
Deciphering that puzzle begins with simply tracking petrels throughout the year, a difficult task in the harsh Antarctic environment. Dr. Seco Pon devised a plan to mount micro-telemetry transmitters on petrels and track their movements remotely, essentially having the birds report their own data.
“Seabourn has been crucial to this project,” says Seco Pon. “They not only sponsored the necessary equipment, but Seabourn Quest provides the mobile base we needed to gather the data.”
Guests on board are informed about the project and its importance, and can follow the target petrels throughout their Antarctic voyages.
“I really appreciate that Seabourn guests understand and support our project,” says Seco Pon. “After all, this isn’t just science for its own sake. We are working to protect the planet we all share together.”
“SEABOURN NOT ONLY SPONSORED THE NECESSARY EQUIPMENT, BUT SEABOURN QUEST PROVIDES THE MOBILE BASE WE NEEDED TO GATHER THE DATA.”