Wednesday, March 20, 2013

South Solo

Three years ago, Hayley Shephard set out on an expedition to paddle solo around South Georgia Island, a remote island in the south Atlantic. Looked at strictly as an expedition, one could make the case that it was an abject failure. A serious injury to a crew member of her support vessel almost scuttled the paddle before it began, and the delay while a replacement was found left Hayley with a reduced weather window. Her primary kayak was smashed up during delivery. Held up by high winds, she was unable to complete her circumnavigation before she had to fly home, and she completed only about one-third of of her expected distance.
But, as the old Rush lyric goes, “the point of the journey is not to arrive,” and the point of Hayley’s journey was to publicize the plight of the albatross. In her book South Solo: Kayaking to Save the Albatross, Hayley describes how endangered species of albatross are struggling to survive as increased fishing takes its toll on them as they fatally strike hooked bait fish on longlines, and as we continue to poison our oceans...and theirs.
In her book, Hayley takes us through her expedition planning, her travel to the south Atlantic, and the tribulations that almost scuttled the whole expedition before it began. But it’s her encounters with the South Georgia wildlife during her truncated sojourn that stand out for me, as she wonderfully describes encounters with penguins, seals, and, of course, albatross. (And the book has some terrific colour pictures, something I wish more kayaking books would have. But I digress.)

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