Friday, 9 March 2012

Sun and sensational

Striated Caracara
Photo by Anke Timmerberg

Rock-hopper penguin
Photo by Anke Timmerberg

This morning at New Island we were greeted by Peale’s dolphins that frolicked around our polarCirkel boats. At the landing we were greeted by inquisitive Striated caracara’s plus bright sun and warm 10°C or 50°F temperatures. On our easy stroll along the pathway through the grassy hills we saw upland geese and a few of the non-native rabbits. The gently rolling hills gave us no clues as to the surprise that lay ahead. Our walk stopped at a cliff edge and on the steep, rocky, guano-covered slopes below us there was a large and crowded rookery. Hundreds of Black-browed albatross, Rock-hopper penguins and Imperial cormorants were nesting or molting here. Needless to say 100’s of photographs were taken.

The perfect weather stayed with us throughout our afternoon landing at West Point Island. There is a full moon tonight and as a result the tide was exceptionally low when we landed at the Settlement pier. Four hours later when we departed the water level had risen by more than a meter or three feet. The rise in water level caused the Expedition team to continually shift our landing site “up” the pier as the tide rose. Needless to say this temporary rise in sea-level did not bother the pairs of Steamer ducks and Kelp geese paddled by the pier throughout our time ashore.
Full moon at West Point Island
Photo by Anke Timmerberg
Most of us walked for about 30 minutes to reach the rookery on the west side of the island. Along our way across the island we noted the differences in the vegetation that result when sheep are allowed to graze in one area and are fenced out of other areas. This rookery was just as large as the one we visited earlier in the day.
Our walk back to the landing pier had a memorable detour. The Napier family opened their cottage to us and put out a fabulous spread of cookies and cakes plus tea and coffee. As our day ashore ended our “sweet-tooth” was more than satisfied and the full moon cleared the horizon on its way overhead.