Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Heading to the Falkland Islands

Our wonderful time at South Georgia is now behind us and we are looking forward to our next stop, at Stanley in the Falkland Islands. One could say we are easing back into civilization and the hectic pace of life on land and all the pressures that accompany it. For example in Grytviken the day before yesterday we were startled to see our first car since leaving Ushuaia, so long ago. In reality it was only a small truck, but it reminded us that in Stanley we will have to re-learn to look before crossing the road. Some of us will have to learn to look both ways as we are from parts of the world where there are different traffic patterns. All of us, in less than a week, will have to face the confusion and congestion that is Buenos Aires and its airports.

The wandering albatross...
This morning we passed over the relatively shallow continental platform that lies east of South Georgia. Here the seafloor rises steeply from more than 1500 meters to a platform depth of less than 150 meters. Only 4 small pinnacles rise from the platform and reach above the ocean waves, they are named Shag Rocks though many bird species besides Blue-eyes Shags are found there. The steep sides of the platform cause upwelling of the deep ocean waters and this brings nutrient rich waters to the surface. As a consequence in this region the food chain is a busy place from microscopic plants and animals up to larger animals such as seabirds and whales. Unfortunately today there was a bit of surface wind and chop and we did not see any whales. But at breakfast and afterward the FRAM was accompanied by several species of tubenoses such as white-chinned petrels, prions and albatrosses.

... and trying to photograph it!

Lectures throughout the day covered seals, whales, cormorants and birds. Today the guest lecture was by Martin Collins who joined us at Grytviken for the trip back to Stanley and his government issue-desk. He described the regulations that govern the boats that fish within the 200 nautical mile wide Exclusive Economic Zone around South Georgia and the nearby islands. Martin also presented the problems and options before the government of South Georgia as they face: a warming climate, increasing rat and reindeer populations and rapidly deteriorating whaling stations. The problems are many, the options are even more numerous and of course the financial resources are limited.