Thursday, October 21, 2010

ON BOARD PLANCIUS: October 18 to 21, 2010

FROM: Debi Shearwater Cabin 602
SUBJECT: ON BOARD m/v PLANCIUS: October 18 to 21, 2010

Howdy, Birders,

About noon on October 18th, we boarded the expedition ship, Plancius
docked at Montevideo, Uruguay port. Plancius is a newly refurbished
oceanographic research vessel. She was built for the Royal Dutch Navy in
1976 and has been completely refitted by Oceanwide Expeditions, winner
of the World Travel Award 2009, "World's Leading Polar Expeditions
Operator." At the dockside, we were happy to see our friends, Troels
who will be our Expedition Leader, and Natascha Wisse, our
Hotel Manager! After being shown to our Superior Cabin, I began
unpacking and settling in for the next 36 days. And, what a beautiful
cabin— 3 large window, excellent storage, sofa, desk and more! There is
nothing like a new ship, sparking and clean in every crack and corner.
On the digital monitor in our cabin, I checked for the day's program.
What a surprise! I saw that Captain Alexander Pruss would be at the helm
of our voyage! Captain Pruss was with us on Shearwater Journeys' charter
voyage on board Professor Multanovskiy, January 4 to 22, 2010. (See
previous blog entries) We were absolutely thrilled to be expedition
cruising with him, again! Finally, after several hours' delay, we
departed Montevideo, heading for the sub-Antarctic Island of South

Our first day at sea, October 19th, began with WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS
sitting on the water in small flocks in the fog. SOUTH AMERICAN FUR
SEALS frolicked off the bow. But soon the fog gave way to beautiful,
blue skies, along with a following sea. GREAT SHEARWATERS circled our
vessel, while ATLANTIC PETRELS trickled by our ship, flying low on the
water as there was no wind. By day's end, Atlantic Petrels were the most
numerous seabird with over 300 counted. We were beginning to observe the
breeding seabirds of Gough, Inaccessible, Nightingale and Tristan da
Cunha Islands. The petrels were followed by ATLANTIC YELLOW-NOSED
finally SPECTACLED PETRELS! Additional seabirds included both NORTHERN
COMMON TERNS. The crowning glory of the day was our first sighting of
SOOTY ALBATROSS! What a beautiful day on calm, glassy seas.

Bright sunshine greeted us the morning of October 20th. It was to
continue throughout the day. The suite of seabirds, both from the
southern Atlantic islands mentioned above, as well as further south
continued throughout the day. SOOTY and ATLANTIC YELLOW-NOSED
ALBATROSSES dominated the day. Around lunchtime, we were very close to
an underwater seamount. Suddenly, thousands of PRIONS appeared! Ongoing
debates as to the species involved remain. Using range maps, these
should be ANTARCTIC and SLENDER-BILLED PRIONS. Several flocks of
COMMON/ARCTIC TERNS numbering over 50 individuals, passed our vessel.
The wind was up today, causing the seabirds to soar higher. Indeed, we
are entering a low pressure system. Distant blows of a SPERM WHALE were
spotted. A SEI WHALE made a very quick spin on our bow! And, some lucky
folks may have spotted a WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL.

October 21 we were greeted with a very gray day, indeed. Now riding in
the trough, with a constant rolling, limited visibility and fairly quiet
seas, most folks on board attended lectures and caught up with their
journals. The number of Sooty Albatrosses dropped off, and the first
LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY ALBATROSS was spotted. Don spotted the first
LONG-TAILED JAEGER of the voyage after lunch. Who knows what the
remainder of this day will bring? That's all for now. We are all well,
even if a bit tired of the trough riding.

Gough Island Seabirds forever,
Debi Shearwater

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