Monday, April 26, 2010


26 April: At Sea, east of Torishima. Nearly everyone on board was up at the
crack of dawn to search for albatrosses. Chumming was in progress and hopes
were high. We were within sight of Torishima, the southernmost of the Izu
Islands, where the bulk of the world's Short-tailed, or Steller's
Albatrosses nest. This albatross was once a common species on both the
Asiatic and American coasts. Several million pairs once bred on Torishima,
but as a result of over-hunting by the Japanese feather collectors in the
late 19th and 20th centuries, it declined dramatically. By 1934 it was
presumed extinct. Miraculously, in December 1950, eight to ten birds were
re-discovered on Torishima. The seas had calmed considerably overnight, but
virtually no seabirds, not even shearwaters, were chumming to our wake. A
distant Steller's Albatross was sighted, a tiny, mere speck of white. Again,
John Graham spotted a speck, sitting on the water at our 2 o'clock position.
It was a sleeping "golden gooney," as we refer to the adult Steller's! The
ship circled around and everyone on board had close views while cameras
clicked away. Whew! Throughout the day, the seas continued to calm until
they were a glassy, smooth. At the end of the day, we had tallied more
variety of wildlife than on any previous day of our voyage— a single
Northern Fulmar (first record for the voyage); flocks of Short-tailed
Shearwaters, especially in the evening; a single Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
immediately off the bow (also a first for the voyage); Red Phalaropes; many
whales throughout the day, including one Sei Whale and possibly a small
group of Hubb's Beaked Whales; small groups of Risso's Dolphins, as well as
bow-riding Striped Dolphins; flying fish and flying squid; and half a dozen
distant sea turtles! It was a spectacular day at sea, brimming with activity
and life!
Debi Shearwater, in the Izu Islands, Japan, Western Pacific Odyssey

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