Kayaking South Georgia to Save the Albatross

In August last year we wrote about Birdfair and Birdlife International and their conservations campaigns, including the Save the Albatross Campaign. The Adventure Blog has reported that in February 2010 New Zealander Hayley Shephard will attempt to sea kayak solo around South Georgia Island in order to raise awareness of the threat which the Albatross is currently facing.

South Georgia is home to a number of Albatross species and to attempt a solo sea kayak journey for the Plight of the Albatross can only capture a fascinated audience to encourage protection of one of the worlds most precious of seabirds.

South Georgia: Rough Seas for Kayaking!

The island of South Georgia is situated between the Scotia Sea and South Atlantic Ocean. It is approximately 860 miles east of the Falkland Islands. It is about 105 miles long and 25 miles across at its widest point. South Georgia experiences fierce prevailing winds and ice cold waters which flow up from Antarctica!

The rugged coast of South Georgia
Hayley Shephard will circumnavigate South Georgia in a Kayak. Source Flickr by michael clarke stuff.
Sea kayaking the 375 miles around the island will be a tough challenge for Hayley Shephard. It will be cold and the sea will be extremely rough. There are many small islands, rocky outcrops, cliffs and glacial edges around the island. These will make it difficult for Hayley to land in order to camp out at night. She is not sure how long the circumnavigation will take, so she will strive to paddle for as long as she can each day. Government regulations require that she must be accompanied by a support vessel, however Hayley will be the first person to solo sea kayak around South Georgia. Hayley will be setting off from Grytviken, which is located in the middle of island on the north east side. She will paddle anti-clockwise around South Georgia, the hardest part being the south west section of the western side of the island, since the sea is particularly bad there. Hayley Shephard’s progress will be reported on her Oceanmaid Ventures blog.

Stunningly beautiful and rugged, this island wildlife sanctuary, once visited, is not easily forgotten. Its snow covered peaks, blue glacier ice and emerald green bays, are breathtaking sights. It is a real “oasis” in the stormy southern oceans and is home to sea and land birds, seals and reindeer.

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands website.

Albatross’ Killed by Long-line Fishing

South Georgia is home to many Albatross. These birds can live up to 60 years, but are slow breeding since they only lay 1 egg every other year. On her website Hayley Shephard states that:

I am extremely privileged and honoured to have had the opportunity to observe the majestic Albatross that glides effortlessly on the up drafts of ocean winds, spending most of its life at sea, circumnavigating the entire globe frequently. They touch land only at an annual nesting site where they will reunite with their lifetime mate and begin the most elegant courtship behaviour you could only imagine. Their 12 foot wings are stretched gracefully, the tail feathers are charmingly erect and their stylish heads are poised in the most seductive stance and together they begin to dance.

Unfortunately Albatross are easily ensnared by long-line fishing lines, and are drowned. Research has shown that there are simple measures that can be taken to minimise Albatross fatalities. However persuading the fishing industry to adopt them takes time, effort and enforcement of regulations.

Alabtross Nesting in South Georgia
Simple measures can help save the Albatross from long-line fishing. Source Hayley Shephard.
Albatross fatalities can be reduced by:

  • Setting the lines at night when fewer birds are feeding
  • Weighting lines to make baited hooks sink more quickly
  • Colouring the bait with harmless blue dye to put off the keen-eyed birds
  • Towing a brightly coloured bird-scaring line alongside the baited line
  • Employ rules and monitor controlled fishing
  • Place conservation officers on board vessels

The South Georgia Patagonian toothfish fishery has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, in recognition for using sustainable fishing practices which also ensure minimal impact on other species, such as the albatross. Buying fish which has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) will help to conserve the albatross and encourage sustainable fishing practices.

Hayley Shephard’s Previous Kayaking Adventures

Hayley is an experienced kayaker and sailor. She guides tours in the Canadian High Arctic and in the remote, northern inlets of the Pacific Northwest. She has also undertaken two island solo kayak circumnavigation expeditions in the past. The most recent was around Haida Gwaii. This group of islands are located on the west coast of Canada, north of Vancouver and south east of Alaska. With the Pacific Ocean on the east the sea can be rough with strong currents circulating around the islands. To the east of the islands is the Hecate Strait, which has been classified as the 4th worst body of water to cross in the world. Hayley Shephard has also kayaked around Vancouver Island, again off the west coast of Canada. This journey was about 750 miles and took 67 days.

For more information visit the Kayaking to Save the Albatross website.

Hayley Shepard Sea Kayaking
Hayley Shepard will be solo sea kayaking around South Georgia to save the Albatross.


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