Antarctic champion shares his thoughts

As a youth, my eyes went wide and mind trembled with excitement, each time I read early naturalists’ accounts of the legendary seabirds of the enriched Benguela, Peru and California Currents, where 100 years ago flocks would take hours to pass and literally darken the sky overhead.

Dave Ainley at Cape Royds

Dave Ainley at Cape Royds

During my 40 years of investigating marine birds and mammals and their food webs, in oceans all over the world, including waters of those coasts, the only place I have ever experienced the same phenomenon is in the waters along the continental shelf break of the Ross Sea.

It is a magnet for flocks coming from 100s if not 1000s of km away. Until then I had thought that the early naturalists had just been exercising poetic license. I’ve seen the destruction of the California Current foodweb firsthand in my own short lifespan. It’s numbing to realize that such assemblages of winged creatures, and their marine brethren, are now gone almost everywhere owing to humans robbing the oceans of their once thought-to-be inexhaustible wealth.

We now find ourselves in a sorry state — the Last Ocean is all we have left as evidence for what once was. It’s a veritable museum. Protecting the Ross Sea is worth all of my effort.

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