Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Blizzard of Prions

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, the ocean is a rollin’ (sung to the tune of Rawhide).  We awoke to blue skies and 25 knot winds. There were a few high-scattered clouds, brilliant sunshine and deep blue seas. A strong swell imbued a gentle but constant roll to Fram as we steadily plied our way towards South Georgia. 

The southern giant petrels of yesterday seemed to have been replaced with Antarctic Prions today. They flitted and soared in their erratic flight paths all about the ship. It was a beautiful morning and a glorious day for sea birds. In addition to the Prions were: Black-browed Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross, Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Southern Giant Petrels, White-chinned Petrels and Blue Petrels.  There were also several representatives of avian royalty: Wandering Albatrosses.  Stately monarchs glided elegantly around the ship throughout the day.

Is it a new dry cleaning service?  What?  Vacuum our clothes?  The introduction of invasive plant species to South Georgia is a very real concern.  As a precautionary measure, all visiting vessels must vacuum all outdoor clothing, backpacks and camera bags.  Vacuums were set out on deck two and everyone lined up to have their gear sucked free of seeds!

At about 15:30, right smack dab in the middle of nowhere, rose 5 dramatic, guano covered slabs of rock. Shag Rocks!  As Fram cruised by the jagged inspiring spires everyone ran out on deck with their cameras or watched from the Observation lounge.

Throughout the day we passed many hundreds of Antarctic Prions but around 16:30 their numbers increased dramatically.  There were many thousands of them flitting and soaring everywhere you looked and for as far as the eye could see.  It was a blizzard of Prions. It seemed that they were numbered in the millions.  There were also many other species of birds in great numbers as well as Antarctic Fur Seals a Minke whale and even a Southern Right Whale!  There was absolutely no doubt that all of this wildlife was attracted to food.  It must have been an enormous smorgasbord, but of what?  We will never know for sure, but most likely small zooplankton such as krill, amphipods and possibly copepods.

Wow!  With such an exciting day at sea we all wondered what tomorrow would hold for us when we finally arrived in South Georgia.