Leg 2, Day 39 – Wildlife!

Natalia Cohen By

Day 39 – Wildlife!

Yesterday was one of my favourite days!

My mum has always been an animal lover and although I have always liked wildlife and animals, my love and fascination for people has always been stronger.

When a random opportunity arose for me to manage a remote safari lodge in Tanzania in 2014/15, I jumped at the chance. It was a magical place, an unbelievable experience and I fell in love with wildlife! My mum came to visit me and when she saw my passion for the animals and indeed my knowledge for everything including the varying birds, she smiled triumphantly and exclaimed “you ARE my daughter after all!”

The wildlife out here on the almighty Pacific has definitely been one of our highlights.

You got a brief update about a few sightings in Ems’ blog, but I’m going to talk you through the day in more detail. It went a little something like this:

Sunrise shift: LP and I spotted the cutest little bird we have seen so far. He flew close to Doris and then proceeded to hop and skim along the surface of the water on one leg then the other. It was the most bizarre yet funky movement. He circled the boat about 3 times doing his funny little dance and we named him ‘Tiny Dancer’.
He is actually a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel it turns out and was performing his foot pattering action while feeding.

Midday shift: LP and I were on the oars. The wind was light and gently caressing our bodies and the sky was overcast giving us great respite from the heat. At the beginning of the shift, to our sheer delight, we spotted a beautiful sea turtle right by the side of the boat. He had come to check out Doris and lapped around us slowly. He had a few fish friends near him and showed great interest in us and Doris’ barnacles. He poked his beautiful head out of the water a couple of times to check us out and the rest of the time just swam languidly near Doris before heading off into the deep blue. We named him Tommy.

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Afternoon shift: There was half an hour to go before we were due to finish the shift, when both of us spotted a very large piece of, what looked like, unusual looking debris in the distance. It came slightly closer and then appeared to be travelling parallel to us but remaining further away.
Both LP and I being naturally inquisitive types, looked at each other, nodded in silent agreement and made the decision to deviate off our southerly course in the name of a small adventure. We rowed like we have never rowed before and the plan was to overtake the large mysterious object and then get close enough to watch it float by.

We got to a decent distance and spotted a Red-footed Booby sitting atop it and to be honest, it looked like a small piece of floating rock island! We stopped at a safe distance to try and get a better look and when we did, to our amazement, we found ourselves surrounded by a huge shoal of fish. New fish that we haven’t seen before. They are not in our fish book, so if someone can identify them, that would be great. There were hundreds of them and interspersed between them were 3 small sharks. It’s was an incredible sight and, understandably, we were distracted for a moment. We shouted to Lizanne and Ems to come and see and before we knew it, our strange floating debris had been carried further away from us by the current.

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Being caught in the strong ECC current that was taking us East at a quicker speed than we had been rowing in our necessary direction, we needed to push South again and so were unable to identify our mysterious object. It was disappointing, but had led us to some wonderful marine life and so, as is normally the case, every cloud has a silver lining.

Sunset shift: Immersed in our prospective audiobooks, LP and I were enjoying our most dramatic shift of the day (sky wise). Some dark clouds were hanging low in the sky and just above the horizon, below the clouds, the sky had begun turning a deep scarlet red.
A flock of about 9 Red-footed boobies soared by and then an incredibly elegant Masked Booby did 3 fly-bys hovering over the boat each time to give us a quizzical look before continuing on.

We then spotted what we initially thought were a pod of dolphins in front of the boat but after getting LV and Ems out of the aft cabin for a look, decided on closer inspection, that they were either giant dolphins or in fact whales. They surfaced gracefully showing us their dorsal fins then retuning back down below. The light was beginning to dwindle and we couldn’t see more of them than their dark grey backs, so are unsure what type of whales they were, but know that they are considerably smaller then the humpback. There was about 8-10 of them in the pod and about 15 minutes after they disappeared, we had a second pod of a similar number pass by the boat.

We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing wildlife filled day! By far our most exciting yet. Oceania – thank you x

We are nearing the tiny Fanning Island, allegedly named after small vessels fannying around in the area when they were meant to be getting south.
I’ve been a little obsessed with it and have been counting down the miles every day. I just asked Tony for some info as I would love to row by it, but alas, I don’t think it is to be.

It’s maximum elevation is around 3m so it’s unlikely to be visible unless we’re within a couple of miles of it.

In 1939 the atoll was incorporated into the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands. In 1979, it gained independence, becoming part of the Republic of Kiribati.
The island’s major exports are copra, frozen yogurt (it’s got our name written all over it!!) and hand crafts (including cowrie shell, shark tooth knives, and Kiribati stamps).

Who lives in such a remote part of the world?



  1. dear Natalie you had me in tears great pics have you seen any plastic milk bottles floating bye. enland 6 san marino 0 [men]] sounds wonderful keep rowing

  2. I am very jealous of all the wildlife that you are encountering but I am enjoying reading all about it. It must be amazing to get so close.

  3. Karl says:

    The pictured fish look to be members of the Carangidae , aka Jacks family. They look like Yellowtail, but may be a close cousin.

  4. Simon TY says:

    What a unique siting, a bird dancing on the surface. Well done Wilson’s Storm Petrel for coming giving you a show. Glad the first turtle. They might breed on on of the Line Islands you are passing ? Believe they swim extraordinatu distances in open water.

    On the map it says Latitude 4. So, as I write this, you should have cracked another line of Latitude and that bloomin Equator gets a wee bit closer. You must dream of days doing 50-60nm in a day. Come on current, the girls have done their stuff, proved their resilience, give them a bloody hand.

    It is clod and autumnal here. Mist this morning, temp down to 6C last night and we have a fire now in the evenings. We have had no summer.

    Onwards and southwards


  5. Heather Kann says:

    what a fabulous post, very atmospheric – I was almost with you…in fact, I was in my warm bed in Bath. So glad there so many things to give you pleasure and hope you manage to see the Fannings. Xx

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