Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shag Rocks & Prion Seas

12 January 2010 on board Professor Multanovskiy

Most of us rushed through breakfast to get out on deck to see the fabled
Shag Rocks. Smallest of the sub-Antarctic islands, these jagged rocks
lie 240 km west of South Georgia and 1500 km east of Tierra del Fuego.
They are rarely visited. To see them under clear and sunny conditions
with calm seas is even rarer. Our highly skilled Captain, Alexander
Pruss, navigated around the rocks so that we could see all sides of
them, along with the 2000 South Georgian Shags which nest there, and few
Antarctic Fur Seals hauled out on the lower levels. It was so calm that
we could even see Black Rock about 17 km away.

The real spectacle was a sea covered with Antarctic Prions. Flocks of
several thousands lifted off the water like swarming bees. This
continued for over 50 minutes of travel time. Currently, the leaders are
tallying those numbers, which must be in the tens of thousands, if not a
million. Making our way toward South Georgia, the first of several Blue
Petrels quartered off the bow.

Our lecture series continued with Linda Terrill speaking about Sir
Ernest Shackleton's legacy. Debra Shearwater gave a short presentation
about the life history of the King Penguin.

After dinner, our Expediton Leader, Morten Joergensen laid out plans for
an evening Zodiac cruise at Elsehul. Peering out the dining room
portholes, we could see the ragged and rugged landscape of South
Georiga. We had arrived!

At 8:30 pm, the Zodiacs were launched and we had an excellent cruise
along the shores of Inner Bay, at Elsehul, South Georgia. Here, we saw
four species of penguins: King, Gentoo, Macaroni and one Chinstrap.
Everyone was pleased to have close up views of the Macaroni Penguins, in
particular. High above our heads in the tussac grass, we could see
Gray-headed and Black-browed Albatrosses on their nests, while Wandering
and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses flew across the bay. Hundreds of fur
seals and Southern Elephant Seals were lying about the rocky beaches. At
10 pm, we returned to our cozy ship-- and just in time!

We have been racing ahead of a strong low pressure system which finally
caught up to us tonight. These weahter systems are part of the natural
cycle of life in this remote part of the southern world. A gale is in
the forecast.

Several passengers have had some "firsts" on this trip. Steve Carroll
saw his 1000th life bird, a Black-bellied Storm-Petrel. This evening,
Carl Billingham of Australia and Laurilee Thompson of Florida, saw
falling snow for the first times in their lives!

Most passengers are reviewing their thousands of images, working
crossword puzzles, or relaxing in the sauna this evening. Undoubtedly,
all on board are grateful for our highly skilled Captain and Expedition

Albatrosses forever,
Debi Shearwater

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