3rd Jan 2017 - Adventure in Antarctica
Rockhoppers and Albatross at New Island, Falkland Islands
This morning we weren't expecting much from our landing at New Island. It might be due to the fact that Brian and I missed the briefing. What a pleasant surprise. As we approached the shores, the landscape reminded me of Newfoundland and I wanted to take photos of the houses. Once we were onshore, we started our walk to the shipwreck just inside the bay. We hoped to get a good angle without the enormous neon orange buoy floating right in front of the beautiful old wooden boat. We did get a few good shots before heading off to the penguins.
At the end of the road, I found my mom sitting on a rock. I went to see her and saw that she had a front row seat to the rockhopper penguin show. We were at the top of a large 250 foot cliff and all along the edges were rockhopper penguins. There were penguins everywhere. Mom and I were in front of a bunch of rockhopper chicks with about two adult penguins watching over them. We made a joke that it was the daycare, but we were right. It takes about 2 hours for the penguins to hop down to the water to get food and return up the cliff. If any chick tried to leave the tightly corralled group, they would get a swat or peck until they returned to the group. Mom likes the rockhoppers the best because of their 'funky hair'. They came up nice and close to us and were about only a foot away from me. While we were there, giant albatross would swoop right over top of us in a big arc. As they flew by, I noticed their large webbed feet look so cute when viewed from above when they are flying. I would say that we watched the rockhopper penguins for about an hour. We photographed so many pairs, chicks, fights, etc. before my parents headed back.
Brian and I stayed to photograph further along the cliff's edge. As we walked around to get a different view of the penguins, we realized that everyone was watching the albatrosses on their nests. We found a comfy spot to sit and stayed for at least an hour. I was amazed at how nurturing they are. A parent sits on the chick in the nest and when the mate arrives, they groom each other and almost 'cuddle' for a few minutes before they switch places. The albatross is a lot larger than I had originally assumed. They are large, but quite delicate in appearance. They have a black line extending from their eyes that make it look like they are wearing mascara. There was one baby chick that stood out, as it was sitting alone in a nest without a parent. This caused me a great deal of concern as I never saw one alone. Often, there were two parents to every albatross chick. Moreover, I watched that chick for an hour without any sign of a parent. I find it hard to believe that a parent would leave and that both would have died and left it there. I want to find Fritz to ask him about that chick. During the hour that I watched him, he protected himself from nosy rockhopper penguins, was scouted as lunch by a skua bird, and called out for food from his parents. I have my fingers crossed for him, but without a parent to protect him, it didn't look good. At one point a large albatross off to my right decided to walk, rather clumsily, past me to another area on the cliff and was only a foot away from me. I couldn't believe how big they are. Except for breeding times, albatross do not go to land, they will fly or sit on the water. Seeing an albatross near your boat usually signals rough waters ahead...this might explain why I hadn't really seen any thus far in the trip.
Brian and I headed back to the bay. On the way, he pulled out some pears that he had gotten for us to eat. The day before there was an announcement about not bringing foreign food into the Falklands. I knew I should eat to avoid another headache, but didn't want to be caught with the scandalous pear. At one point we hid the pears in our coat pockets as we walked by a cruise member, just in case. I placed the cores in my tissue wrapper and waited to dispose of them later.
I was surprised to see my parents at the hut on the bay. They had been chatting with the lady who lived on the road. This was great news for me as I wanted to know if I could take photos of the houses along the road, especially the stone house with the red door. She said, "Of course you can. Go right up to any house you like." I couldn't wait to take pictures of this one stone cottage with a copper coloured roof. As we got closer I found it had a shed around the back with beautifully faded hues of green as well. I loved this house. I really wanted a photo from the other perspective, but the gate was shut. We returned to the road and entered from the other side. This however, was incredibly open and visible to everyone. I know that I had permission, but they didn't know that. I felt so scandalous and guilty, but the pictures were worth it. As we were finishing, the cruise director looked in at us and I was panicking. There I was in someone's gated front yard and with food in my pocket. I was sure I was going to be questioned. My heart was racing. We walked back out and I tried to look as casual as possible. Surprisingly, no one said anything even though I felt I was walking around wearing a scarlet letter on my coat.
Back on the cruise ship we enjoyed a set menu of cod dishes and lingonberry desserts before Brian headed off to rest (his cold had become worse) and my parents went to the briefing for the next day. I continued to blog in my room before bed. I have one more landing day in the Falklands tomorrow. It seems like such a short amount of time has passed since the cruise started and I can't imagine it being over soon. Best not to think about it...
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