THE FLIGHT OF THE PETREL

SE­ABOURN SUP­PORTS UNIQUE MON­I­TOR­ING PRO­GRAM IN THE ANTARC­TIC.

Seabourn Club Herald - - BEHIND THE SHIELD -

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.”

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