Falklands to South Georgia

7th to 10th November 2015. Falkland Islands to South Georgia.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Before we left Stanley, we crowded on a lifeboat for a drill, all no doubt hoping we wouldn’t encounter the real-life situation, tossed on a wild sea like a can of sardines.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A last glimpse of the Falklands as we sail from Stanley, out of Blanco Bay.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

There were huge numbers of sooty shearwaters sitting on the water (and here flying from the ship).  Jóhann Óli estimates there were 8,000 of them.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Snow Petrels.

Visibility was generally poor during the crossing so I didn’t chase images then and we are now near South Georgia, three days later.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Black-browed albatross.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Giant Petrel, South Georgia in the background.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

The looming mountains of South Georgia.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Map of journey.  Click to expand to large size (around 2,000 pixels wide).

The return route line is generally outside the incoming line and the landings are also numbered.

I have been on several tours but this one stands out for the quality of the company.  There was 48 of us almost all photographers, the vast majority of those of professional quality and specialising in wildlife.  They included Ole Jörgen Liodden and Roy Mangersnes of Wildphoto and Joshua Holko, Daniel BergmannEirik Grønningsæter and Bonnie Yap, with whom I journeyed from Spitzbergen to Iceland in 2013.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Cape Petrel.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Right Whale Bay, site of our first landing.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Giant petrel.

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Black-browed albatross, Cape Petrel, Falkland Islands, Giant Petrel, Landscape, Nature, Photography, seascape, Snow Petrel, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

Black-browed albatross, flying towards land.

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6th April: Falkland Islands (Grand Jason and Steeple Jason Islands)

Today was our day to investigate the Jason Islands, a small group of islands at the north-west tip of the Falklands that is seldom visited, partly due to difficulty of landing.

We woke up to a fine day with some cloud but that didn’t mean it was calm.  35 knot winds prevented us from landing at our first intended landing place of Grand Jason Island so we proceeded to Steeple Jason Island, the most westerly island in the group.  In the afternoon the weather became more calm and we were able to land there.

Steeple Jason has the largest colony of black-browed albatrosses in the world, with 187,000 pairs and unusually, the numbers are increasing.

Grand Jason Island, a few minutes after dawn, a cormorant in the sky

Steeple Jason Island

Steeple Jason Island

There are many rookeries of albatrosses and penguins on bare rock near the coasts of the island. This is a closer view of one, lower mid island in the previous image, mainly penguins in this case with a few albatrosses. Click on the image for more detail.

The rough coastline

Island peaks in cloud

One corner of Steeple Jason Island

A vertical slice of the island near where we landed in the zodiacs

The horizontal panorama above does not fit any larger on this page.  There are very many birds in the air over the point, including a giant petrel trailing its wing in the water, and huge numbers of birds beyond the rocks on shore.

The vertical panorama at the right could fit larger on the page but would take up too much space.

To see either of them “properly”, click on them and a window will open with much more detail that you can zoom in and out of and scroll around in.

In that new window, first click the lower right icon for a full window, then use the mouse wheel or other icons to zoom in and out.  It’s also better to back off a little from the full resolution that you can get in these screens.

5th April: Falkland Islands (West Point Island) – Abducted by Aliens

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Eeerraaark, eeeerraaarkk!

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Penny the Ground-Painted was always telling anyone who would listen about being abducted by aliens and she had the silver bracelets on her ankles to prove it.  Erica the Red-Eyed was not impressed.

Erica lives at 3,000 steps up in Noisy Delirium Circle.  It’s a long walk up from the harbor frontage.

  • Trudge, trudge, hop, hop, wait for a crowd to gather then big hop, trudge, trudge …
  • Ethelbert the Elegantly Absurd:  “This is my patch.  What are you doing on my patch? You can’t have it.”; Erica: “I’m just passing through.  I live at 3,000 steps up in Noisy Delirium Circle, about 40 steps from the end of Sky Mountain Street.  Let me through.”
  • another couple of steps …
  • Dionysius the Disheveled:  “This is my patch.  What are you doing on my patch? I won’t let you take it.”; Erica: “I’m just passing through.  I live at 3,000 steps up in Noisy Delirium Circle, about 40 steps from the end of Sky Mountain Street.  Let me through.”
  • another couple of steps …
  • Ignatius the Punk:  “This is my patch.  What are you doing on my patch? It’s not yours.”; Erica: “I’m just passing through.  I live at 3,000 steps up in Noisy Delirium Circle, about 40 steps from the end of Sky Mountain Street.  Let me through.”
  • And so it goes …

Eventually, Erica reaches her elite apartment high in the sky.  It was actually built by Eustace the soarer and Wendy the wave-kisser when Noisy Delerium Circle was still called Black-Browed Hilltop.  According to rumour, Wendy was last seen going for a dive behind a fishing boat and Eustace now hangs out in a different part of the City, often disrupting other couples by trying to hassle for a new partner.

Erica’s young son, Diogenes the Slightly Deranged, is now bigger than her.  “What’s for dinner?”  “Fish.” Lots of noisy celebration of the return.  “What’s for dinner?”  “Fish.” Heads down and screeching sounds. “What’s for dinner?”  “Fish.”  This goes on for a while.

Our legends tell of the giant black were-penguins that devastated our communities hundreds of generations ago.  Today we were visited by friendly aliens from the planet Ostr.  Earlier we visited their space craft as it lay on the sea and what a lot of space it seemed to contain.  We also bounced up and down out of the water beside their landing craft to get a good look at them as they came in.  These Ostr aliens are giant multicoloured hump-backed penguins and while they keep a respectable distance, they also allowed us to come right up and look at them.

Pity about Penny the ground-painted.  Last time we saw her she was heading off to a pair of sea lions to tell them how she had been abducted by aliens.

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Eeerraaark, eeeerraaarkk!

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… And so it was in the afternoon that we disembarked at West Point Island.  Michael, the Island’s caretaker, greeted us and generously provided a Land Rover bus service to the black-browed albatross and rockhopper penguin colony and also a service back, later in the afternoon.  This was much appreciated by those of us who were disinclined to venture far.  There was a much higher proportion of albatrosses to penguins than in the previous day at New Island and it was very easy to get quite close.

A few people took a long scenic trek and another group elected to climb an impressive hill in the other direction.  Though it was very windy at the cliff where the albatrosses were, it was very calm at the top of the large hill where a spectacular panoramic view presented itself.  There were also hundreds of albatrosses sitting out on the water.

Layered rocks on the cliff edge

Panorama looking back from the cliff top

Rock striations

The wild coast far below

Hundreds of black-browed albatrosses bobbing on the waves

A view in late afternoon light while walking back

Back at the “farm”, Jeanette put on a lavish afternoon tea and there was also the distraction of a dead ship on the beach as well as anchors and other marine debris.  There was also another afternoon tea on the beach attended by six turkey vultures and eighteen cara cara.

Anchors on the beach

Cara caras and turkey vultures (red heads) at the farm's carcase disposal point

Wreck on the beach

Cara cara, guardian of the wreck

Then a calm and easy return to the ship but the day was not finished yet.  Dinner was a barbeque on deck with loud dance music, mainly rock & roll and 60s pop.  Everyone donned strange headgear and there were exuberant displays of dancing by passengers, Aurora staff and the Russian crew.  Michael and Jeanette attended from the Island and may have wondered what strange universe they had arrived in.

… And I forgot to mention – a fin whale was visible from the ship feeding and with attendant seabirds for about 20 minutes though only the earliest of us back got to see this.