Most people know the story of the albatross that saved a lost ship by leading it out of the Antarctic: When a sailor shoots the ancient bird and the vessel again became stranded off course, the mariner incurs the wrath of his shipmates, who tie the dead bird around his neck.
When Samuel Taylor Coleridge penned “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in 1797, it probably didn’t occur to him that the albatross eventually would become endangered. But today, 19 of the 21 species of albatross recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are threatened with extinction.
Enter Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten.
This summer the line aims to help the dwindling number of birds by launching an onboard fundraising program called “Save the Albatross,” a project started by the BirdLife International Foundation.
Hurtigruten, which operates 13 ships that cruise to remote destinations such as the Antarctic, the Arctic, Greenland and the fjords of Norway, will hold the fundraisers aboard its 314-passenger Fram.
Passengers can bid on Hurtigruten items such as the nautical chart showing the route of their voyage, signed by the captain, a Hurtigruten flag and expedition-team jackets. Funds raised will go toward the “Save the Albatross” campaign.
“We want to give something back to the regions we visit, after the great pleasure of experiencing these magnificent and remote areas,” said Hurtigruten expedition team leader Karin Strand.
“Our guests recognize the privilege of being able to travel to the Antarctic, Greenland or Spitsbergen, and as a thank-you they would like to contribute to the future of these regions,” she added.
The albatross population has declined due to several reasons: The harvesting of their feathers; pollution; a drop in fish stock; and long-line fishing, which inadvertently kills the birds that swoop in for bait and drown after becoming tangled in the lines.
“These animals are incredibly elegant when they move," Strand said. "To me, they are one of the most impressive bird species in the world."
This isn’t the first time Hurtigruten has championed a cause. Ongoing fundraisers that the line operates onboard its ships include campaigns launched by Antarctica South Georgia Heritage Trust and the Ocean Foundation. One program focuses on raising money for the Association of Greenlandic Children, and it has yielded more than $184,000 in its first four years through onboard auctions.
Hurtigruten hasn’t revealed any target dollar amount for the albatross fundraiser, which launches with the ship’s June itineraries, since it depends on passenger generosity.
For more information on the “Save the Albatross” project, visit www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/albatross/.