I am an Adventurer and Expedition Safety Expert. I have led expeditions all over the world covering many different environments and regions. I also work as Global Safety Manager for the Earthwatch Institute.
Name: Lloyd Figgins
Location: Crossing the Atlantic
Bio: I am an Adventurer and Expedition Safety Expert. I have led expeditions all over the world covering many different environments and regions. I also work as Global Safety Manager for the Earthwatch Institute.
My most recent expedition saw me rowing 3,200 miles across the Atlantic from Morocco to Barbados. The benefit, from a research perspective, of this particular challenge was that I was travelling on a route outside of major shipping lanes and travelling very slowly and therefore able to conduct research on the marine species I encountered.
Marine biologists from Earthwatch gave me a crash course in species identification and provided me with field guides and spreadsheets. I then recorded my sightings which included GPS data for mapping, as well as number of species, behaviour and heading. Where possible I would also photograph the species I encountered.
I was primarily looking for turtles, jellyfish, sharks and cetaceans and was lucky enough to collect data on all these species. Each have their own vital role to play in the oceans ecosystem and each are critical to maintaining the delicate balance to ensure the future of our oceans.
Many of the species I encountered are endangered and some critically so. Therefore, it made it even more rewarding to be able to collect data and send it back to Earthwatch, who then distributed it to the relevant marine organisations.
There were so many highlights, it’s hard to pick a favourite. Every encounter with dolphins was special and they have a way of making the world feel like a better place. Sharks, despite the obvious dangers, are incredible creatures and perfectly designed for their role in nature. Seeing them in their natural environment is absolutely amazing if not slightly concerning when you have a 3.5 meter mako following you for a few days.
I was fortunate to see Kemp’s Ridley and Leatherback turtles, both of which are critically endangered. The fact that I was able to record sightings of both away from where most marine research is carried out was encouraging, but more needs to be done to protect these species.
Perhaps the greatest highlight was a small pod of Pygmy Killer Whales, who despite their name are in fact dolphins. Very little is known about this species, but scientists believe there has been a 30% global reduction in just 3 generations, so seeing them was a privilege.
Undoubtedly the greatest challenge was the weather. At times the swells were in excess of 50 feet and winds over 40 mph. Often waves would break on the boat, sending you flying off your seat. I was always wet and my skin suffered terribly from sores. However, it was worth it and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
1) Contact universities and environmental organisations and see if you can conduct research on their behalf. They will often welcome the opportunity to have someone collecting data, especially in remote environments.
2) I always found the research a welcome break from rowing and it was important to separate the two. Each is important, but marine sightings were often rare, so it made sense to drop everything and concentrate on the research. Some species didn’t hang around for long, so it was important to make the most of them while they were there.
3) Make sure you have a notebook or laptop to record your data. I took a small laptop with me and this had spreadsheets for each of the species I might see, so that I simply entered information after each sighting.
4) Be humble – The Ocean will always win.