A full day out at sea today that provided a lot of interest despite what we had forecasted. The weather was grim all day with the outside decks being closed for most of the day. However from the bridge wings a great total of Kerguelen Petrels was witnessed, with a minimum of 21 birds seen passing the ship throughout the day. There was also a great showing of Snow Petrels today, with perhaps 80+ birds encountered. Also our first noticeable number of Southern Fulmars were seen. A productive day.
Snow Petrel in a perfect setting
Today was the coldest day of the entire trip, that was inevitably influenced by the 35 knot wind. At the stern of the ship a large gathering of Cape Petrels were following the boat, and mixed in was a superb Antarctic Petrel. It tracked the boat for about an hour providing superb views, and just as well as this was only one of two birds seen throughout the entire trip, much to my surprise. Midway through the morning land came into view and it was the South Orkney Islands. Even though we wanted to land here, it was extremely difficult but somehow we got on. The captain had anchored as close as he could to provide as much shelter as possible. This enabled a zodiac landing at the Argentinian base of Orcadas, established in 1904 on Laurie Island. At the landing area, the sea was full of Cape Petrels with an estimated 600 birds counted taking shelter from the wind. On the beach our final species of Penguin was on view, the rather cute Adelie Penguin, with three birds looking as unimpressed with the weather as we were. Despite the relentless wind, an Argentinian worker showed us around the meteorological station and museum. A very interesting site and a lucky treat to have landed here. Back on board we slowly sailed away and continued towards the continent. With the islands still in view, we were treated to a spectacular display of feeding Fin Whales that for around twenty minutes fed around the boat. The birding from here onwards to dark was relatively the same as this morning with little variety.
Cape Petrels taking refuge
our first Adelie Penguin
one of the five Fin Whales that surrounded our boat
South Orkney Islands
A brilliant day today but not really for the birds. We woke up to an almost flat calm sea and a scattering of small icebergs that stretched for miles. Halfway through the morning a large Dutch sailing ship came into view and had apparently set sail from The Netherlands. There was little in the way of variety today in regards to the birding, but stacks of Cape Petrels followed the ship for most of the morning. However, now being in much cooler waters, Whales stole the show for the day and overall we saw numerous Southern Bottlenose Whales and Fin Whales. Large islands were coming into view and we knew that when the next morning dawned, the great continent of Antarctica would be in view.
Totals for the few days are as follows:
Kerguelen Petrel - 21
South Georgia Shag
Southern Bottlenose Whale - including a pod of 14 animals
a brilliant start to the day sailing past these bergs
Southern Bottlenose Whales, and a Wilson's Storm-Petrel
Elephant Island - now getting close to the continent