Sooties!

Itinerary

  • Dawn shore call at Salisbury Plain to visit the largest King Penguin colony in the world – CANCELLED
  • Visit Prion Island to see the Albatross nesting grounds
  • Find an alternate cove to visit instead of Salisbury Plain

Today began at 5:00 AM (2:00 AM EST) in the hopes of visiting over 100,000 nesting pairs of King Penguin, thousands of Elephant Seals, and some Fur Seals, plus some superior scenery. It was a let-down 3 times. We tried at 5:45 AM, again a few hours later, and then we went back again in the afternoon. The waves were too big to successfully offload and load passengers into zodiacs. We will make another attempt over the next few days. This is a spot I have always wanted to visit.

I’m going to skip past Prion Island for a minute to get the boring stuff out of the way. After our third attempt at Salisbury Plain, we decided to find a cove with less wave action and ended up at an old whaling station. We went for a zodiac cruise because we couldn’t get near the station due to possible asbestos poisoning.

Zodiac cruising next to a sunken whaler
Zodiac cruising next to a sunken whaler

I cannot remember the name of the station, but will get it again later. There was a young male elephant seal inside one of the buildings practicing his grunts. We assumed he liked the echo – it was pretty amusing! Then we watched young fur seals play king of the reef until a snow storm began. Then we finished the evening with dinner and me typing this blog article now.

That was the boring part of the day, which wasn’t all that boring.

Gentoo Penguin at Prion Island
Gentoo Penguin at Prion Island
For the ladies - Fur Seal Pup
For the ladies - Fur Seal Pup

Prion Island is killer! On the beach is a mixture of Gentoo Penguins, Fur Seals, Skuas, and other birds. On the cliff above are nesting Wandering Albatross chicks and other big birds.

Wandering Albatross Chick - biggest baby bird I've ever seen!  We need a turkey this size for Thanksgiving.
Wandering Albatross Chick - biggest baby bird I've ever seen. I'm not sure they make Thanksgiving turkeys this big!

The highlight of the day was seeing Light-mantled Sooty Albatross doing their courtship flight. These albatross are the only ones that don’t nest in colonies, so they’re hard to find. They have a beautiful mating call and perform a ballet of graceful acrobatics once a mate has been chosen. We got to witness the whole thing!

Sooty Albatrosses performing gracefully to show their courtship
Sooty Albatrosses performing gracefully to show their courtship

One of the naturalists told me this photograph is a prize possession.

I have now photographed every animal I wanted to shoot while down here except the gray-headed albatross.  I need some better shots of a few things, but I’ve got everything on the list check already (except 1) and I still have 4 more days on South Georgia!

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow–am so happy for you. 🙂

    Have you heard of the book, “The Worst Journey in the World” about the only surviving member of Scott’s last expedition? It is supposed to be awesome; I haven’t had chance to read it yet.

    Thanks for the seal pup pic! Stay safe and warm.

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  2. Jcox3 says:

    Alex, it really looks like you are on a trip of a lifetime. the pics are outstanding,

    i’m really fascinated with the albatross but have a hard time trying to get an idea of how big they really are. do you have any shots that may give a better idea of size?

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  3. mom says:

    Bummer Alex! I certainly hope you get the chance to off load for the penguins before departure.

    The pics are fabulous!!

    Hows your side from the shower the other night??

    LU-Mom

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  4. Chelsea says:

    Hey Alex! Sounds like a fantastic trip. I really love the pictures!

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  5. axspot says:

    Having a tough time with my Internet Connection now, so this might be my last reply for today.

    stilllifeinbuenosaires – I haven’t heard of that book, but I think I’m going to have to pick it up now. Shackelton’s story is fascinating!

    Jcox3 – it is hard to get one in the same frame with a human that isn’t off in the distance. I have been trying to take photos with people in them for references, but it is tough. The Albatross is huge – it is the largest flying bird in the world. The Wandering Albatross is bigger than a condor! Sorry, that’s the best I can do right now.

    Mom – I’m still a little sore for my encounter with the sink, but all is well and I am not letting it slow me down.

    Chelsea – hey Chelsea, thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Hey Alex, looks freakin awesome. Stay in touch when your back in Hampton Roads.

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