Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Voyage begins - the Beagle Channel & beyond!

We arrived at the Albatross Hotel at the appointed time. Gradually, more & more people arrived &  everyone had all their luggage with them. It got a little crowded. Personnel from One Ocean arrived and formalities began. It took a while! However, we eventually boarded the bus, for the shortest bus journey in the world - all of 50 m! (This is a rule & we had to comply).

My home for the next 19 days!

Leaving Ushuaia.

We saw our ship & boarded, I found my shared cabin, & was a little shocked to see how small it was! It was tiny!

 I unpacked & then it was time for the compulsory lifeboat drill. This was both necessary & quite fun, although I wouldn't want to be in one of those vomit coffins for any period of time! 

Getting ready for something which
 we all hope never happens!

Me in the vomit coffin!

However, all this was forgotten as we sailed down the Beagle Channel. It was a cold, but crystal clear evening, with brilliant lighting. The channel was flat calm, so I went up on the very top deck to try & get the best views. The vistas were stunning, both on the Chilean & Argentinian sides. It was a wild & windy place. I really did feel like I was on the edge of the known world!

Evening, in the Beagle Channel.

Birds were abundant & included 50+ Black browed Albatrosses; plenty of Southern Giant Petrels & Southern Fulmars; colonies of up to 1,500 Imperial Cormorants were stood on any available bits of flat rock and 2 Rock Cormorants were also noted. Chilean Skuas patrolled the channel, looking for easy pickings from the abundant South American Terns. 

Adult Black browed Albatross.

Juvenile Southern Giant Petrel

Southern Fulmar

Huge flocks of Imperial Cormorants were seen.

Rock Cormorant was surprisingly scarce.

Chilean Skua

It was now 10.30 pm & I had had a very long day, but I went to bed elated, this was going to be a very good trip!

All at sea - getting ready for a spot of pelagic birding!

I woke up early & scrambled out on deck. To my surprise, we were still in the Beagle Channel! I had vastly underestimated how long the channel was. However, the open sea was beckoning & the waves were starting to be significant. Black browed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrels & White chinned Petrels were now common.

Southern Giant Petrel - a more adult looking bird.

White chinned Petrel

We were now in the open ocean, heading slightly north-east to the Falklands. The morning was sunny & bright, but as the afternoon drew near, the clouds darkened & the sea got a little rough! I did notice that there were a few less souls than there should be for the evening meal! I spent nearly all of the available day sea watching from the outer bridge. I piled on my layers, as it was a tad cool & breezy out there! However, I was rewarded with some truly great seabirds:

Wandering Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross

Adult Grey-headed Albatross

Wandering Albatross; 4 Southern Royal Albatross; 1,000+ Black browed & a single adult Grey-headed Albatross. Among the abundant Southern Giant Petrels I managed to pick out at least 3 Northerns; Cape Petrels were abundant (at least 1,200 being recorded); 50 Southern Fulmars; 18 Slender-billed Prions & a brilliant Soft-plumaged Petrel went by.

Cape Petrels were to be our constant companions
 throughout this trip.

Southern Fulmar

Slender-billed Prion

Soft-plumaged Petrel

At the mouth of the Beagle Channel Sooty Shearwaters were abundant (at least 1,400 birds) & Wilson's Storm Petrels started to be recorded in good numbers (at least 350+ birds).

Sooty Shearwater

Wilson's Storm Petrel

A small black & white torpedo flushed from under the prow of the boat. It was the much sought after Magellanic Diving Petrel, but it was too fast for me to get a photo! What a stroke of luck to see this rare species!

As we got further out to sea 9 Great Shearwaters were seen and my first Grey-backed Storm Petrel. This latter species is so tiny & very quick, easily lost amongst the dark grey swells.

Great Shearwater

A bit closer!

Grey-backed Storm Petrel

Eventually even I had had enough & I retired to the bar for a drink & a chat! It was a very pleasant evening.

Please be warned, this photograph is of adult content!
It may seriously disturb adults of a delicate nature
 & send children screaming to their beds!

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