Bayeux Arts Blog (book publisher)
Kayaknoise Blog (Necky)
Kokatat Article (sponsor)
Canoe and Kayak Magazine Article
Adventure Kayak Magazine Article
Northanger Article (support vessel)
An article in the Niagara Falls Nature Club Newsletter - Feb 2010
Niagara Falls Nature Club
The Plight of the Albatross
A life-sized Wandering Albatross carved with a 12 foot wingspan soared across the stage as members gathered for our December meeting. Hayley Shephard described how the Wandering Albatross, the largest flying bird in the world, utilizes updrafts in its circumnavigation of the globe, touching land only at nesting time. After an elaborate courtship, the lifelong pair produces a single egg, which takes 80 days to incubate, and a year to raise. While the parents cover thousands of miles in their foraging flights, the chick is vulnerable to cold and to predation by skua, rats and other birds. The parents also are vulnerable, mostly to the results of human behaviours. As long-line fishing
vessels set out thousands of baited hooks the hungry albatrosses are caught and dragged underwater, leaving their chicks to starve. An albatross dies every 5 minutes, 100,000 a year. No surprise that 21 of 22 species fall into the threatened, vulnerable to critically endangered categories.
Over the course of 12 years and nearly 100 expeditions on ships to the Antarctic, Hayley became enthralled by the flight of the albatross. She grew to love the sheer abundance of animals attracted to the nutrient rich waters around South Georgia Island, the hundreds of thousands of penguins and elephant seals, and their absolutely fearless curiosity about human visitors. However, after numerous discussions with bird biologists on board ship she grew increasingly concerned about the declining numbers of albatross, and decided to use her skills to increase awareness of their plight. Thus was born the South Georgia Expedition, an attempt to be the first person to solo kayak around this Sub-Antarctic island. She took out a mortgage on her house, got permission from the British government, and hired a support vessel to take her across the dreaded Drake Passage between the tip of South America and Antarctica. All did not go
according to plan. The initial crossing of the stormiest water in the world was delayed when the skipper lost a finger during horrendous weather. After taking on replacement crew, she arrived at her destination to find her specially built kayak was shattered and needed extensive repair. Finally underway in a backup kayak, she experienced the
worst summer weather in years, was forced onto land three days out of four, and even there feared that her gear would all be blown into the ocean. All was captured on video taken by herself with the aid of a tripod, and relayed by satellite back to Alert Bay, BC, where Dean Laar, carver of the soaring albatross, posted her progress and ordeals
on a blog that was attended by friends and family as well as by total strangers around the world, all of them learning more about the albatross and about courage and perseverance.
In the end, time ran out. People on board the support vessel had their own lives to return to, and Hayley with great regret had to abandon her dream of solo kayaking around South Georgia. She succeeded in going about a third of the way, she
succeeded in increasing awareness of the plight of the albatross, and she earned the respect and admiration of a whole community of blog watchers.- Win Laar
Kayaking to save the albatross (Wavelength Magazine)
This is an article from Wavelength Magazine, available in print in North America and globally on the web.
by Hayley Shephard
At 6.30 am I awoke and peered out the porthole of my cabin. The storm-lashed cliffs and glacier-clad peaks of South Georgia stood only a mile from our ship’s starboard side. Grey headed albatross glided effortlessly in the wind blown skies, leading us to their home, the most extraordinary place on the planet.
This somewhat forbidden, almost untouchable island stands alone in the middle of the Southern Ocean, its nearest neighbor 1400 kilometres away. Treacherous seas constantly batter the coastal rocks and ridges, shaping beautiful surf beaten bays. Fearless animals take shelter from the savage winds, utilizing the abundance from the nutrient-rich ocean. Ponderous elephant seals, gregarious fur seals and posh king penguins congregate on the few accessible beaches. Millions and millions of nesting terns, petrels and prions flutter in and out of cracks and crevices, feeding their vulnerable young during a sporadic short-lived summer.
This exceptionally isolated, storm-torn island, shaped and sculpted by Mother Nature’s dramatic forces has captured my attention, and is holding me under a potent spell from which I will never be free. As hostile, as dangerous, as forbidden as it feels, South Georgia’s charm, its divine and ruggedly stunning beauty, has a power that I will be forever drawn to, and I shall not rest until I have seen it all.
This Sub-Antarctic island is 170 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide and is situated along the fringes of Drake Passage, which separates Antarctica from South America in the Scotia Sea. South Georgia has been described by numerous explorers throughout history. Here is Captain Cook’s fierce portrayal: “A land doomed to perpetual frigidness whose savage aspects I have not words to describe.”
South Georgia is an extremely important breeding island for a number of species, including numerous seabirds such as penguins, petrels and four species of albatross. For the past eight years I have arrived by Russian ship, leading adventurous groups from all around the world to Antarctica and South Georgia, to admire this island and the animals that dwell here.
For me, the most majestic and mesmerizing of the species is the wandering albatross. This is the biggest of the albatross species and is classified as the largest flying bird that exists on earth with a mighty 3.6 metre wing span. This rather lanky seabird needs at least 20 knots of wind to get itself airborne, therefore it nests on steep, exposed coasts and islands amongst the tussock grass, using a small runway and a sheer drop as a launching pad.
I am extremely privileged and honored to have had the opportunity to observe the grandiose albatross that glides effortlessly on the updrafts of ocean winds, spending most of its life at sea, circumnavigating the entire globe frequently. These birds touch land only at an annual nesting site where they reunite with their lifetime mates and begin the most elegant courtship behavior you could imagine. Their wings are stretched gracefully, the tail feathers are charmingly erect, their stylish heads are poised in the most seductive stance, and together they begin to dance.
However, behind the scenes of soaring albatross and spectacular petrels is the insidiously slow, almost invisible loss of lives, thinning out breeding colonies, emptying skies and threatening the very existence of nineteen out of twenty species of albatross, due to illegal fishing and poor techniques used in the long line fishing industry.
International Seabird Conservation organizations are joining together to raise funds to implement research, which will then create opportunities to alter fishing techniques to reduce seabird by-catch—simple measures to prevent so many birds dying needlessly.
In January 2009, I am attempting the First Solo Sea Kayak Circumnavigation of South Georgia Island in aid of the albatross. I am hoping this epic journey will capture a fascinated audience, promote public awareness, and ultimately encourage the protection of one of the most amazing seabirds. The 500 kilometre journey will take approximately five weeks to complete due to continuous foul weather that can keep one beach bound for weeks.
In 2005 the first ever sea kayak circumnavigation was accomplished by an Adventure Philosophy team consisting of three New Zealand men; a solo journey has never been attempted.
Personally I admire and respect those who not only strive to fulfill their own dreams, but do so in ways that benefit others and that serve an important cause. It is these accomplishments that can create positive change for humanity and our planet earth.
Hayley Shephard works as Expedition Leader in both the Arctic and Antarctic and has been guiding on the BC coast for over ten years. She was the first woman to solo sea kayak around both Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands and presently has her sights set on South Georgia.
An expedition such as this one has its fair share of obstacles and challenges to face and navigate. South Georgia is governed by Britain and over the years they have established an environmental and safety protocol that adventurers must follow if they chose to do an expedition on or around the island.
For Hayley to gain permission to attempt her solo sea kayak circumnavigation, she is required by British Law to have in place a support vessel which will act as a back-up search and rescue vessel in case an emergency situation arises.
Hayley has lined up the sailing vessel Northanger owned and skippered by husband and wife team, Keri Pashuk and Greg Landreth. Although they are supporting the expedition and cause by giving Hayley a substantial discount, the chartering of a vessel and crew has added a hefty sum to her expedition budget.
Please visit www.kayakingtosavealbatross.com for more information on the expedition and the Albatross situation, as well you will find the means of making a donation if you would like to support Hayley and her courageous attempt at helping to save the Albatross.
Hayley will be most grateful for your interest and generosity.