World famous yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur called into the Falklands on Saturday, on her way to South Georgia, where she will be helping out with a bird survey being conducted there this summer.
Made famous by her record-breaking solo round the world yacht trip earlier this year, Dame Ellen flew into the Islands on Saturday afternoon and sailed for South Georgia later that evening.
She will be joining the Petrel and Prion Survey team, led by Sally Poncet, and will then assist Sally with the Wandering Albatross census. Dame Ellen is particularly passionate about the albatross, "they are amazing birds," she told Mercopress on her brief visit to Stanley. Numbers of the giant birds are declining however, mainly due to long line fishing, "there are massive numbers of albatross being killed," Dame Ellen said.
A chance meeting with Sally Poncet on her last visit to the Falklands was how Dame Ellen's involvement in the survey came about. After reading a report given to her by Sally, on the effect long line fishing is having on albatross numbers, Dame Ellen offered her services for the trip: "I spoke to Sally and said ?what can I do?'"
Although this is Dame Ellen's first real break from sailing "forever," she is not treating it as a holiday. "I don't do holidays," she said, but did say that she was "excited" about the trip. "I like learning," she continued, adding, "if I can make a difference then that's great."
As well as helping out with the actual counting and surveying of the birds, Dame Ellen is also making a television documentary about the trip, which will be shown in France and hopefully, other countries as well. "We're hoping to film as much as we can," she said, "we want to show as much as possible."
Dr Ben Sullivan of BirdLife International, who also arrived in the Falklands on Saturday, said that in terms of raising awareness for the plight of the birds, Dame Ellen's involvement is invaluable. "It's fantastic," he said, "to have someone of Ellen's profile is a fantastic opportunity."
A former employee of Falklands Conservation, Dr Sullivan said the data collected by the team this summer will add to the international Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) pool of information.
Photo:Dr Ben Sullivan (left) and Dame Ellen MacArthur (right) outside Government House in Stanley.
Rob Burnett - Stanley