The storms finally passed east but the sea still had a fair swell. We initially steered NW for a few hours and then with a very rolly turn steered NE taking advantage of the SW wind and were soon doing over 11 knots in the right direction at last. We were sitting in the dining room at the time, everything left flew off the tables, glasses and crockery smashing for the third time in 12 hours. Speculation mounted as to when we would now get back to Cape Town, we were due in on Sunday, but plenty of time yet. Our ship impressed everyone with how well she coped with these conditions, but she was built with them in mind. What must it be like out here in the winter? The wake held a nice collection of birds for the photographers in the morning, a few Wanderers, lots of Cape Petrels and various prions. Angus and Martin concentrating on the prions for a forthcoming paper they are planning to ease separating this very difficult group. Blue Petrels and Antarctic Fulmars with the odd Southern Giant Petrel joined the fray.
Blue Petrels were seen throughout the trip, often in the company of prions with which they share a canny resemblance. The brilliant white tip to the tail is diagnostic and ususally it is easy to see the darker cap and half-colllar. Blue Petrels seem to travel faster than prions and sometimes stand out because they accelerate way from a group of birds. They also zig-zag more than prions, making them a little harder to capture of film.
The sea continued to calm
throughout the afternoon, the sun even came out for a while, the barometer
rising. Tony gave a well received talk on Shackleton’s incredible journey.
Up on the monkey island, Chris Collins and Barrie Rose did it again, just
after 16.00 four beaked whales appeared in front of the ship, moving quickly
away on the starboard side. In spite of not seeing the heads they could
only have been Arnoux’s from the description (50.25 degrees S). After dinner
a nice collection of birds behind the ship, six white tailed male Wanderers,
a pair of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross’s and a cast of smaller tubenoses.
Tonight we were due to cross the Antarctic Convergence again and the captain
had put up a five day weather forecast showing high pressure all
the way back to Cape Town, we felt we deserved it.
Today we made good progress through the upper forties, calm seas, although every so often a big set of rollers would get the ship yawing wildy for a couple of minutes. We had not crossed the convergence during the night but did so mid-morning. The 10 or so Light-mantled Sooties suddenly disappeared (including a pair which had been ‘formation flying’ around the bows) and many new species returned to our bins and cameras. The last of the White-headed Petrels, the return of Soft-plumaged and a Grey Petrel. Three Black-browed Albatross’s spent most of the day with us. A White-chinned Petrel joined the wake, a Sooty Shearwater crossed it. The only cetacean was a distant presumed Sei Whale.
Ventral view of a subadult Southern Royal Albatross. This was a surprisingly controversial bird but many of the arguments were easily solved by photography. The dark cutting edge (tomia) to the upper mandible - specifically the latericorn plate - was very difficult to discern in life. Also the dark patch on the leading edge of the outer wing is somewhat reduced compared to the adult Southern Royals many of us were use to. The bills of royal albatrosses are broader than wandering albatrosses and the nasal opennings are more rounded in shape and positioned horizontally with respect to the plane of
A new great albatross was
spotted early afternoon and great debate ensued. Largely black upperwings
with a white leading edge, white back, small dark mark on the underwing
carpal but did it have a dark cutting edge. No was most people’s opinion
in spite of a number of close passes to the rear of the ship. Was it a
young Northern Royal, young Southern Royal or just a Wanderer? Angus’s
Canon D60 digital camera clinched it, it did have a dark cutting edge so
it was in fact a Southern Royal. An interesting lesson. Still most of the
Wanderers were pure white tailed, old males? Just before dinner came the
bird of the day, an Atlantic Petrel which did not stay around and was missed
by most. A vagrant ,being the 4th record in this sea area. A fun team quiz
in the evening followed, cabin 14, the Ocean Wanderers were doing
well early on but we didn’t finish in the final three.
Dorsal view of the same young Southern Royal Albatross. The relatively solid dark upper wings promoted early calls of Northern Royal Albatross, although there is clearly a dusting of white feather edging on the scapulars and some of the median coverts. The white leading edge is a strong feature for Royal Albatross rather than a Wandering. Again the dark cutting edge is obvious in the photo but was not in life.
here for the Trip List (seabirds and mammals)