Antarctica: Retracing Shackleton's Journey travel blog

Tuesday, February 10

Day 14

Prion Island

We signed up for the 10 am zodiac tour of Prion Island, and watched as members of the 8:30 tour returned drenched by rain. We took measures, and I bought a plastic sleeve to protect my camera. When our turn came, we bundled onto the zodiac and walked onto Prion Island in the Bay of Isles. Our quest: nesting Wandering Albatross, with the largest wingspan of any living bird on earth.

Fortunately, Mike was our guide and we walked carefully up the boardwalk to the viewing platforms. One of the maintenance men from the ship was making his way down after repairing a broken step, and Fur Seals barked and howled at us along the way, and we knew to keep our distance. At the first platform, we saw a big white Albatross sitting on its nest about 12 feet away. A pretty good viewing, we thought. Then we walked up to the topmost platform, and found a nesting Albatross about three feet away. We could have touched her; she was so calm and quiet.

Across the hill we saw five or six nests, and there were lots of other birds as well. It seemed to lighten up a bit, and I thought my offering to the weather gods was working. What had been rain, turned into mist, and eventually dried up completely. We had great spotting by Mike and saw a young Albatross take off, almost as if from a launch pad. Another swooped by repeatedly and made a really close pass overhead. In fact, the giant bird swooped so close that my camera couldn’t focus at such close range. On the ground, the Albatross walks stooped over like Groucho Marks, and we saw a couple of them just cruising around. There was even a landing and what seemed to be an exchange of nest duty between one pair, but we couldn’t see if there was an egg.

We stayed up there for close to an hour, until the next group pushed us off the platform. But we could have stayed all day watching the Wandering Albatrosses soaring, the Skuas dancing with each other on the ground, and the smaller Sooty Albatrosses sailing by, as well.

From Prion Island, we set sail across the Scotia Sea to the Falklands. It’s a long trip, and Tim Soper doesn’t expect to land till Friday. As it turned out, we had some rocky seas and winds, and a number of people succumbed to seasickness. But that night, one of the passengers, a woman economist from Stanford, hosted a “Wild Woman Party” for only females in the lounge after dinner. Actually, two men showed up. One was a waiter who came topless, and the other was Rod Ledingham, an old Antarctic hand, who wore a sarong and definitely likes the ladies. I would definitely want him around if we were put out to sea in a lifeboat!

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