6th April: Falkland Islands (leaving Steeple Jason Island)

Late in the afternoon we headed off for the coast of Patagonia, slowly leaving Steeple Jason behind us as the afternoon turned into sunset. There were many albatrosses and giant petrels in the air and some cara caras turned up to farewell us on the ship.

Steeple Jason Island

(Click on image above for much larger version. In the new window, click the button at the bottom right for full screen then use mouse wheel or buttons to zoom in and out).

Cara caras on the ship's mast

A lone black-browed albatross against the late afternoon sun

A cara cara and the Russian flag

Steeple Jason Island

A city of black-browed atbatrosses and possibly gentoo penguins

A giant petrel (above) and a black-browed albatross (skimming the sea) as the afternoon turns into sunset

A black-browed albatross against Steeple Jason Island as sunset comes on.

A giant petrel in front of Steeple Jason Island at sunset

Two giant petrels in the sky as the Falklands recede and the sunset starts to fade away

6th April: Falkland Islands (Steeple Jason Island)

In the early afternoon we landed on Steeple Jason island, a somewhat precarious scramble from the zodiac to the rocks in a small cove.  There were traces of farming activity from long ago but the island has been uninhabited for some time.

Many went off to try to find the albatrosses in their colonies but few managed to find their way through the very high tussock grass.  Perhaps fortunately, I had noticed the great sea highway of gentoo penguins near where we landed and settled in to photograph them.  At the end, I just had time to snatch a few landscapes before we were summoned to an early departure.

I settled down in a nice comfortable position and opposite me was a large rock on which penguins were coming in out of the water and being washed on and off by the waves.

Most of these penguins have yellow beaks except the bottom one who has an orange one (there were also a few others).  The gentoo penguins at Vernadsky Station had orange beaks so perhaps this is a stray from Antarctica.

I was particularly looking to get gentoos porpoising so I was very pleased to catch the shot above.  This is not easy to do because they suddenly bounce up out of the water and then disappear again and it’s difficult to predict where it might happen.

As I was observing the penguins from my elevated vantage point I observed very fast white shapes zooming around in the water.  At first I thought, wow, those fish can move really fast.  Then I realised it was the penguins.  These little fellows are speed demons, underwater racing cars, twisting and turning below the waves.

On the left above, an immature rock cormorant, on the right a gentoo penguin

Not drowning, waving.

Steeple Jason Island with gentoo penguins in foreground

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.