South Africa to the Antarctic Pack Ice
30 October to 18 November 2002
A personal account by John Brodie-Good
with photos by Angus Wilson

03 November

All day at sea again, the rolling getting more pronounced but still due to the swell only, very little wind although the afternoon clouded over with rain later. New birds included the first Sooty Albatross, at least four Wanderers, two White-headed Petrels, many Soft-plumaged Petrels, at least 10 Little Shearwaters flushed from the bows and a Grey Petrel which spent over an hour with the ship, a new bird for many. Tony had a single Kerguelen Petrel first thing, a species desired by many onboard. The first prions appeared at lunchtime building up to hundreds by dusk. Antarctics and perhaps Slender-billed too, the cause of much debate as usual with this family. A short afternoon nap was expensive with two Fin Whales seen off the bridge and another Southern Bottlenose Whale, just yards in front of the ship.

The Grey Petrel is an odd Procellarid, most closely related to Westland and Black Petrels of New Zealand. Structurally, Grey Petrels resemble larger shearwaters more than Pterodroma-like petrels with relatively bulky bodies and a shearwater-like head and bill. The species breeds during the austral winter on cool temperate and subantarctic islands including the Tristan da Cunha group, Gough and the Prince Edward Islands. Occasionally Grey Petrels venture northwards into the warmer waters of the central Atlantic and there is a record near Ascension. Sadly this species is a frequent victim of long-line fishing.

04 November

The roaring forties finally roared as our ship pitched into the mountainous seas, spray and foam flying everywhere. The cold grey waters flecked with turquoise amongst the whitecaps as they raced past us. As the day wore on, the gale raged between force 9 and 10 getting close to 11, birding wasn’t easy, cetacean watching was a non starter. In spite, a new bird was added to the growing list of seabirds, a single Southern Royal Albatross in the wake, late afternoon. Watching from the monkey island or flying bridge was completely out, but a few brave souls ventured up there just to enjoy the spectacle. During the afternoon the captain kindly gave us permission to visit the bridge and take photos of the bows pitching into the huge seas, spray flying everywhere. Amazingly the majority of passengers were proving resilient to mal de mer, more of the crew were ill than we were!. The fact that most were concentrating on seabirds kept their minds off the boat’s pitching and rolling. One had a lucky escape however when a huge wave flooded in to the lower back deck, knocking him off his feet, he was lucky only his camera and lens got swept away.

White-headed Petrel is one of the largest and most striking of the Pterodroma. Generally found in colder water and rarely encountered north of 30 deg S. Whether the species breeds on the Prince Edward Islands is uncertain, although clearly supported by the abundance of sightings in surrounding waters. White-headed Petrels are much larger than Soft-plumaged Petrels with a distinctive bulky white head and black mask over the eye. The upper surface of the wings appears grey with a strong brown M-mark and contrasting white tail and rump.

Part 01 - (30-31 October)   Pre-Cruise
Part 02 -(01-02 November) Embarkation
Part 03 - (03-04 November) The Roaring Forties
Part 04 - (05-06 November) Marion
Part 05 - (07-08 November) Marion & Prince Edward Island
Part 06 - (09-10 November) Iceberg!!
Part 07 - (11-12 November) Into the pack ice
Part 08 - (13-14 November) Recrossing the Antarctic Convergence
Part 09 - (15-16 November) Petrel Fever
Part 10 - (17-18 November) Landfall

Click here for the Trip List (seabirds and mammals)

Page layout and photos copyright of Angus Wilson© 2002 All rights reserved.
Text copyright of John Brodie-Good© 2002 All rights reserved.
List of the world's best pelagic locations
To the annotated list of the World's Seabirds
To the annotated list of the World's Marine Mammals
Back to the Index Page