Flight Of The Albatross | William Thomas Online | William Thomas

Flight Of The Albatross

At length did cross an Albatross…
And round and round it flew…
And lo! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship  -
Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

gaze of the albatross




By William Thomas


On our second mind-blown day offshore, with Cape Flattery a distant rumour, the barometer collapsing, and Hawaii weather radio predicting imminent mayhem, I am hand-steering when the albatross finds us.


Holding that gracefully-tapering 12-foot wing rigid, the huge bird glides in to circle this broad-winged stranger. On each close pass, we lock eyes.


Sailors say these far-ranging cape birds are the reincarnations of drowned seamen. From the grave inspection that close-circling wanderer gives our three-hulled craft, I can only concur.


That evening, the albatross returns to check on us. And again the following morning, homing on our new position with unerring accuracy over trackless Pacific wastes. As wind and seas build into stunning violence, the great soarer tacks effortlessly in ground effect, wingtips feathering each advancing crest. Hidden behind intervening waves, the kindly creature bursts repeatedly  into view, swooping close past the cockpit to fix the person at the helm with an unblinking gaze before flying off.


These visits cheer us immensely. In heavily-breaking seas driven by near-hurricane winds, Thea and I await each diurnal appearance with anticipation rivalling meal times. In the relentless din of such a vast, inhospitable realm, it’s reassuring to have such a concerned and experienced seaman watching over us.


One evening, the albatross leads a tanker to our position. How else to explain the simultaneous appearance of both bird and black ship?


We carry no radio. Decks awash, the tanker stands by for nearly an hour as the albatross circles. Towing a tire drogue, Celerity must look a brave sight sledding down the faces of those great combers.


For five days and nights we run off, steering three on, three off for our lives. On the last gray morning, the breeze falls away to a full gale as porpoises circle our plucky trimaran in further inter-species support.


Soon after, the albatross shows up – this time with his lifelong mate. Together, they circle us in farewell. That night, blown 200 miles off the California coast, we cross the 40th parallel. Abruptly, the wind shuts off.




Three decades later… the captain of the small sailing research vessel Alguita watches albatrosses circling a bobbing line of plastic trash. “These distinguished strangers from another world” seem to be picking “the reds and pinks and browns,” captain Charles Moore recounts. “Anything that looks like shrimp.”


With little forage in a dying ocean, an albatross will also gorge on packing pellets. One-hundred billion pounds of “mermaid tears” are produced annually – each featherweight plastic nurdle a perfect replica of a fish egg.


Another favourite: waterlogged plastic bags resembling tasty jellyfish. Floating plastic lasts from 100 to 1,000 years, accreting chemicals that block reproduction.


Longlining is also decimating sea and sky. Multiple fishing lines – each as long as 60 miles, bearing thousands of baited hooks – trail behind each boat, drowning up to 100,000 very-slow-to-reproduce albatrosses every year.


Please search online for orgs working to save the albatross.

albatross-2 Chris is clearly highlighting the contents of these baby chics’ stomachs– plastic. The closer and longer you look, the more you can identify. -Chris Jordan

Contents of albatross chics’ stomach: see what you can identify. -Chris Jordan

 发件人     William Thomas 2019