The Ross Sea

By David Ainley


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

During my career investigating marine birds and mammals and their food webs, finding myself at one time or many in all oceans of the world over the past 40 years, 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, a magnet for flocks coming from hundreds if not thousands of kilometers 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 food web 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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