Friday, November 1, 2013

Wandering Albatross Nesting on Prion Island

By Larry, Thurs Oct 31

Our last full day on South Georgia! It was another beautiful day of high pressure and we motored 4 hours against the wind with a magnificent view of the mountains and bays that we had seen or skied on the way south. We got some excellent pictures of the Fortuna Glacier and the Breakwind Ridge that we skied down and then Possession Bay and our exit off the Murray Snowfield. Our goal was the island called Prion which is one of the few known albatross nesting places. The big Wandering Albatross and many of its cousins like the Light Mantled Sooty Albatross come here to mate and fledge their young. They know Wanderers can live to more than 55 years old and start breeding when they are about 11 years old. They pair for life and take turns feeding their young. We were here at the end of the brooding period of about 11 months and the young Wanderers were everywhere on this small island. Their nests were spaced about every 50 to 100 feet near the top of the hill. They would turn into the 25 knot wind and spread their wings as if to fly, but they are not yet ready to fly – they are too heavy and have too much of the downy warm feathers on their bodies and leading edges of their wings. To unfold or refold their wings seems to take quite a long time and seems quite complicated. They are so long that they have to be careful not to get feathers stuck out of place. When they stretch their wings at about 9-12 feet its just amazing to see. Then swooping in, comes an adult Wanderer show us (and the fledglings) how its done. Just soaring on the wind currents, turning left, then right, then taking an updraft and diving down again, all without flapping its wings even once!

It's said that to feed the young albatross, the mother or father flies up to 5,000 miles and is gone for a couple weeks at a time. The books we have on board say that they have measured the energy expenditure of a Wanderer flying at sea and they are such efficient flyers that its no more energy to fly than to walk around on the grass at home. Luckily, the amount of albatross caught up in long-lining has drastically decreased in South Georgia and the rest of the Antarctic, but the mitigation measures need to be enacted and enforced in other fisheries further north in South America, Africa and India.

We motored into a nice harbor a few miles away in the shadow of the glaciers and had a nice last dinner on South Georgia in calm waters.

The weather forecast is for headwinds much of the time so we are planning to leave in the morning to catch a relatively calm period before the gales. The flights from Stanley are only once per week, so we don't want to miss them due to bad weather on the sea.


1 comment:

  1. I am amazed at what you guys have done! What an incredible adventure. Come home safely.